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May 15, 2012 12:40 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Southampton Boy Will Be Allowed To Play Field Hockey Next Season

May 15, 2012 6:27 PM

Keeling Pilaro, the 13-year-old male field hockey player who was told last month that he would no longer be allowed to compete on the Southampton girls varsity field hockey team, saw his fate reversed on Tuesday.

The Athletic Council for Section XI, the governing body of high school sports in Suffolk County, overturned an earlier ruling that said Keeling would be unable to return for his second season with the team. The initial ruling stated that his presence on an otherwise all-girls team was having a “significant adverse effect on the ability of girls to compete successfully in the sport.” They said he simply had become too skilled, and that his skill level was essentially creating an inequality.

But after an hour meeting and another hour of deliberations by the Athletic Council at Section XI’s offices in Smithtown on Tuesday morning, that decision was overruled. The Athletic Council is made up of athletic directors and other administrators from high schools across Suffolk County.

Keeling, an eighth-grader, led Southampton in scoring with 10 goals last season and was named All-Conference in what was his first season on the varsity squad. He grew up playing field hockey in Ireland, where it is recognized as both a men’s and women’s sport, before moving back to Southampton two years ago. At less than 5 feet tall and 90 pounds, Keeling played on the junior varsity as a seventh-grader before he was granted permission by Section XI to join the varsity team last year.

He was told that in order to play, he would have to go before Section XI’s mixed competition committee each year, and they would make the decision to grant him a spot on the team on a yearly basis. In his first hearing this year, on March 30, the mixed competition committee denied Keeling’s request to play on the team. The Southampton School District appealed the decision in another hearing on April 16, and the ruling was upheld. They were granted one final appeal, with the Athletic Council, and were finally successful; none of the members of the Athletic Council had voted in the initial rulings.

Moments after Tuesday’s ruling, Keeling Pilaro expressed joy that he would be able to continue playing the sport he loves with his teammates. “I’m just so excited that I can play for one more year,” he said, referring to his teammates as “family.”

Fairley Pilaro, Keeling’s mother, expressed relief as well. “We’re just thrilled,” she said.

Both Ms. Pilaro and Southampton Athletic Director Darren Phillips gave credit to Tom Volz, the Southampton Board of Education’s attorney, who presented arguments at the hearing on Tuesday morning. According to Mr. Phillips, Mr. Volz pointed out that while Keeling was the leading scorer on the team, most of his 10 goals came against weaker competition, a sign that he was not as dominant a player as Section XI has charged, one argument the section used to justify keeping him off the team. Mr. Volz also contended that because Keeling also had eight assists, it could be argued that his presence on the team in fact had a positive impact on the girls, rather than an “adverse” one.

Other factors that were used to argue for Keeling’s position on the team included the fact that, because the Southampton field hockey team does not hold tryouts, no girls were denied a chance to be on the team because of him. They also argued that if Keeling was as dominant a player as Section XI painted him to be, perhaps Southampton would have finished with better than its 8-6 record in Division II, 10-6 overall. Southampton lost in the first round of the playoffs to Rocky Point.

And, of course, there is the language of Title IX, a federal law which states that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” While the landmark 1972 legislation has been traditionally applied to create equal rights for women in sports, it was, in this instance, brought up on behalf of Keeling Pilaro.

Throughout the ordeal—which had put Keeling, his family and the school in the national media spotlight—the Southampton School District and Superintendant Dr. Richard Boyes have been publicly supporting Keeling and his fight to remain on the team. The school released a statement in support of the decision on Tuesday, saying it is “relieved and pleased” with the ruling, and feels that, in this case, Keeling “fits in well and does not present an unfair or adverse presence to his teammates and competitors.”

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Yeah!!! I'm so happy for you Keeling CONGRATUALTIONS!
By mychildmatters (60), SOUTHAMPTON on May 15, 12 12:45 PM
Very happy!! Good luck to the SHS field hockey team!!!!!!
By rjhdad (73), southampton on May 15, 12 12:57 PM
Congrats Keeling!
By hamptonchic (11), Bridgehampton on May 15, 12 1:04 PM
Great news.

Sad how much DRAMA was required to achieve this just, fair and equitable solution.

Hopefully Keeling did not take it personally.
By PBR (4895), Southampton on May 15, 12 1:08 PM
1 member liked this comment
Good for you Keeling & parents! Never take no for the answer to something you feel strongly about. I hope you have a great time playing.
By runawaypeg (2), Southampton on May 15, 12 1:24 PM
Congratulations!
By car74 (1), Southampton on May 15, 12 1:46 PM
What wonderful and just news! Look forward to watching Keeling play this fall! Congratulations to the Pilaro family and to Southampton athletics.
By nsea93 (39), Southampton on May 15, 12 2:03 PM
Man Up Keeling you have NO business playing with a bunch of girls,what would your former team mates in Ireland think of you.
By Etians rd (509), Southampton on May 15, 12 2:05 PM
I'm sure if he had the option of playing with / against a team of males he would, but given that he doesn't have the option I think it is great he is being allowed to continue to play a sport he enjoys playing!
By Rich Morey (348), Brooklyn on May 15, 12 2:11 PM
1 member liked this comment
"Man Up" ??? to quote Etians rd.

What a nice friendly non-angry post you have made, Etians rd, to an eighth-grade boy, who is simply trying to do his best within the available limits of field hockey here!

"Man Up?"

Indeed!

PS -- Hopefully Keeling will not take the negative comments here personally.
By PBR (4895), Southampton on May 15, 12 3:02 PM
2 members liked this comment
I doubt there opinions would change, I do think they would wonder why more men are not playing in the US. Anyone can conform, it takes real man to go against the norm.
By pstevens (406), Wilmington on May 16, 12 12:51 PM
1 member liked this comment
I agree with you Rich, Bobby
By TianaBob (256), S.Jamesport on May 25, 12 11:51 AM
This is the type of decision that will allow school districts to drop field hockey from their program. If 5 or 6 boys go out for the team what happens then? When your daughter gets barrelled over by a boy playing the sport will you bring a lawsuit? This is ridiculous. Start a club team. Travel. Thats what hockey players, fencing, luge athletes do. Waste of taxpayer money.
By The Real World (352), southampton on May 15, 12 2:25 PM
Would another alternative be to START a boys field hockey team?

Compare the physical size of all the players here in the photographs in previous articles. It seems unlikely that Keeling could "barrel over" anyone else on his team.
By PBR (4895), Southampton on May 15, 12 3:06 PM
1 member liked this comment
Whoa whoa whoa. That sounds too much like socialism bub. ;P
By johnj (948), Westhampton on May 15, 12 3:13 PM
PS -- Go to the article linked below (but not here, as yet), click on "VIEW ALL IMAGES" under the photo at the top left, and check out photo 3 of 3 regarding the "barrel over" possibilities.

No Way!

http://www.27east.com/news/article.cfm/East-End/422500/Pilaro-Family-Vows-To-Keep-Up-Fight-For-Son-To-Play-Field-Hockey
By PBR (4895), Southampton on May 15, 12 3:18 PM
Haha. Ulterior motives perhaps?
By johnj (948), Westhampton on May 16, 12 10:24 AM
Hooray! So happy that Section XI did the right thing : ) I look forward to watching you play next year!
By Lisa W (3), Southampton on May 15, 12 2:55 PM
Great news. Way to go for challenging and prevailing over a wrong decision. All's well that ends well!
By V.Tomanoku (685), southampton on May 15, 12 4:20 PM
When you reach puberty....comment again.
By The Real World (352), southampton on May 15, 12 6:42 PM
If girls are allowed to play on Boy's sport teams, then boys should be allowed to play on girls sport teams. How about doing away with boys and girls teams and having one unisex team for every sport.
By Walt (279), Southampton on May 15, 12 6:59 PM
1 member liked this comment
Happy to hear this on the challenged East End!
By gansetteer (125), East Hampton on May 15, 12 7:25 PM
OK way to use title 9 in the exact way it wasn't meant to be used. So now all you not so athletic boys can now play field hockey or any other girls sports you choose. You can play softball, compete in gymnastics or what ever you choose to dominate. No where in title 9 does it say a student too big or dominant should be allowed to play a sport. It basically says if the federal govt contributes everyone must be allowed. I'm sure this is a great kid, with lots of talent, but have we lost our minds?
By chief1 (2605), southampton on May 15, 12 8:08 PM
I don't imagine male athletes will be allowed to play on female teams when equivalent male teams exist - basketball, baseball, etc.
By Rich Morey (348), Brooklyn on May 16, 12 10:09 AM
Wow...not so athletic, have you seen Olympic level field hockey? which is what Keeling is pushing for? Only in this country is field hockey considered a "girls" sport. I would love to see you handle even a 1 quarter on the field with the girls and Keeling.

What cave have you been living in? Gymnastics is a male and female sport...Softball is pretty much the same as baseball. The application of title 9 was appropriate in this case. No person, not no girl or no boy...no person on the ...more
By pstevens (406), Wilmington on May 16, 12 1:01 PM
1 member liked this comment
Keeling's story has made it to the MSN homepage!
By nsea93 (39), Southampton on May 15, 12 10:44 PM
2 members liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By chief1 (2605), southampton on May 16, 12 9:40 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By pstevens (406), Wilmington on May 17, 12 9:40 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By chief1 (2605), southampton on May 17, 12 10:14 PM
Competitive sports teaches you lessons that you live by your whole life.Girls compete boys cooperate.The more girls sports the more they will learn to cooperate. Does having a boy on the team detract from this process? I think it depends on the boy. Ultimately the goal is to have fun.We can all agree with that.
By TianaBob (256), S.Jamesport on May 20, 12 12:14 PM
1 member liked this comment