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Pilaro Family Vows To Keep Up Fight For Son To Play Field Hockey

Publication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press
By Cailin Riley   May 1, 2012 11:00 AM
May 1, 2012 11:14 AM

They also disagree with the notion that Pilaro is taking away opportunities from other girls. Hannigan pointed out that there are never tryouts for the varsity squad, so other players are not being cut from the team in order to make room for Pilaro. Hannigan also added that the process for handing out postseason awards, like the All-Conference recognition Pilaro received, doesn’t operate such that a set number of awards is handed out each year. Rather, the coaches who vote on the awards hand out accolades based on the number of players they think are deserving; thus, the number fluctuates from year to year.

The Pilaro family and Hannigan have several issues with the way the decision was handled by Section XI. They feel that the explanation, that Keeling’s skill level creates an adverse effect on female opportunity in the sport, is vague and subjective. Most of the members of the committee have never seen Keeling play in a live game, Ms. Pilaro pointed out, and saw only video footage of him playing in a win against an East Hampton team that missed the playoffs and finished eighth out of 12 teams in the division. Pilaro scored three goals in that 6-1 win.

“They’ve never defined how he adversely affects players,” Ms. Pilaro said, adding that while her son led the team in goals, she believes there are better players than him on the team. She pointed to Tara Watson, a defensive player who shined for the Lady Mariners but was not a goal scorer.

“He’s not the fastest and he’s not the strongest,” Ms. Pilaro said. “He does have good stick skills, but are they too advanced? There are a lot of people in the league who are better than him.”

Ms. Pilaro believes that not allowing her son to play is not only a form of reverse discrimination but also is offensive to the large number of females who play the sport. And she’s not alone in that assertion. Taylor Mills, an All-County player from Sayville, spoke out on Pilaro’s behalf in a Newsday article, and Port Jefferson field hockey coach Deb Edgar-Brown said she believes that Pilaro’s presence on the team has a positive impact for not only his teammates but all players in the county.

“A lot of people are calling it reverse discrimination, but a lot of girls feel that it’s discrimination,” Ms. Pilaro said. “The fact that Section XI views them as inferior and that they can’t handle playing against [Keeling] is offensive. It’s minimizing girls by saying that.”

Ms. Pilaro said her attitude would be similar to that of Mills if she were a high school player competing against Keeling: “Her attitude is, ‘I can play against him. I’m happy to because I’m better than he is.’”

Ms. Edgar-Brown, whose daughter plays travel field hockey both with and against Pilaro, said his presence in the sport has a positive impact, because he makes everyone around him better, in much the way any player with strong skills would do. She said the idea that he is potentially taking away a starting spot from a girl shouldn’t be viewed as an injustice but rather should motivate players to work harder.

“If he took away your spot, maybe you should get in the gym more and work harder,” she said in a phone interview.

Southampton Athletic Director Darren Phillips said he is disappointed with the decision as well, for various reasons. “It goes against everything you tell your kids,” he said. “You want them to work hard in the offseason and get better. Now, he’s improved, and he’s being penalized.

“I personally don’t see the adverse effect,” he continued. “I don’t see a dominant kid who is going to dribble around girls and nobody is going to get the ball from him, and he’ll just completely take over every game. And he’s obviously not a physical threat with his height and size. There have been other females who have been better than Keeling, and they were dominant, and we don’t ask them to stop playing.”

For his part, Keeling—who also wrestles and plays lacrosse at Southampton for the junior high teams—finds the situation “annoying and frustrating,” but he says he will remain dedicated to his teammates no matter what decision is ultimately made.

“I’m just hoping I can play for one more year,” he said. “I would definitely still practice with the girls, even if I can’t play in games. I’d be the team manager. Field hockey is my favorite sport, and I just love hanging out with them.”

Keeling’s passion for the game, and his dreams to one day be part of the U.S. Olympic men’s field hockey team, are all part of the reason why the Pilaro family is determined to continue the battle.

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In other schools, girls are allowed to wrestle because the school does not have a girls wrestling team. Some of these girls have won championships wrestling against the guys. Are these girls told they can't wrestle because they've become too good? Of course not.

Yet Section XI, for some reason, feels that this a just decision. Personally, I feel this is an outrageous decison and I hope that the Pilaro family takes this as far as it can go.
By itsamazing (153), Southampton on May 1, 12 10:55 PM
1 member liked this comment
Section II has had boys play on the girl's field hockey teams for many years, past and present. One team had a boy play this year and last year. Another team had a boy play several years ago -- he went on to play for the US Men's Field Hockey team and just retired from playing. Keeling should be allowed to play on the girl's team until a boy's league is created. I support him and his family 100%!
By nsea93 (33), Southampton on May 2, 12 1:10 AM
1 member liked this comment
My daughter, Tara, is a Senior, and one of several stand-out veteran members of the Southampton High School field hockey team and as a parent I have had the pleasure of watching Keeling play alongside his teammates on umpteen occasions. Field hockey is a team sport and to single out one player as being over-skilled does not merely diminish the roles played by the other team members, it downright acts as if they don’t exist. As in any team sport, the participants practice their plays over and ...more
By Lisa W (3), Southampton on May 2, 12 8:40 AM
2 members liked this comment
To Lisa W,just curious, do you think you would have made the play-offs without Keeling?
By Mets fan (354), Southampton on May 2, 12 7:50 PM
Absolutely, we made it the year before without him. This is a very strong team.
By bhf2627 (1), Southampton on May 3, 12 9:45 AM
Sorry Mets fan - I responded under my employers account in error - but yes, we have a strong team and made the playoffs the prior year without him.
By Lisa W (3), Southampton on May 3, 12 9:48 AM
Its just so annoying that if it was a girl wanting to play football on an all boys team no one would care and she would be allowed then the boys who feel like they dont want to hurt her would be told to bad deal with it. It just seems like its very uneven to me.
By Crankypants (34), SOUTHAMPTON on May 2, 12 9:25 AM
This is by far the most east i've ever seen put into a 27 east article... and it's about a boy playing field hockey.
By milkdilk (43), Southampton on May 2, 12 9:55 AM
east = effort
By milkdilk (43), Southampton on May 2, 12 9:55 AM
let him play!
By cabin fever (9), Hampton Bays on May 2, 12 1:21 PM
1 member liked this comment
You would think that Section Xi would talk to players and coaches and look at more than just one game against a weaker opponent before making a decison like this. It comes across as extremely short sighted and biased. I hope the Pilaro family not only wins the right for their son to play the game he loves but also that Section XI (their board members, to be specific) is
required to re-imburse both the family and/or school district for their lawyers' fees.
By itsamazing (153), Southampton on May 2, 12 3:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
When i look at the photos here and I see the size difference between the young boy and the players he's up against my eyes roll up inside my head and my mouth utters the words "what a bunch of goofballs.." He's taking whose place now? Ridiculous...Stick 'em Mom!
By V.Tomanoku (599), southampton on May 2, 12 3:30 PM
1 member liked this comment
Perhaps it is time to stop labeling a team as "boys" or girls?"

One team, one boat, with each rower rowing in the same direction?

Funny, here we are in Earth Year 002,012 and there are so many gender-based preconceptions still struggling to stay afloat.
By PBR (4364), Southampton on May 2, 12 3:45 PM
PS -- Per V. Tomanoku, check the photos. Go get 'em Keeling and family!
By PBR (4364), Southampton on May 2, 12 3:49 PM
Come on Mr. Cinelli - you used to be such a fair guy. You're gonna look like some jerk when this kid makes the U.S. Olympic team and you denied him the right to play as a boy.

These are children, not professionals, open doors for them - don't shut them.

By bchgrl83 (52), Westhampton Beach on May 2, 12 5:16 PM
Sports Illustrated cover today is Title IX!!! How appropriate with the nonsense this committee has created!!!!! The Pilaro family has every right to appeal this ridiculous decision!!!! I bet if he didn't earn all-conference so panties wouldn't be so twisted!!! Go Keeling!!!
By tmcculley (4), Water Mill on May 2, 12 6:19 PM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By tmcculley (4), Water Mill on May 2, 12 6:20 PM
Sorry to post again on this, but you MUST check out the photos!

Mr. Keeling Pilaro (yes, the "Mr." may be a stretch) is no match size-wise to his team-mates. And yet he excels!

What is the problem here, except for the pea-brain preconceptions of the Section XI officials?
By PBR (4364), Southampton on May 2, 12 10:13 PM
First thing I noticed was that the banquet photo could have passed as, shall we say, Amazon in proportions?
By Mr. Z (6057), North Sea on May 3, 12 7:46 PM
1 member liked this comment
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