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Oct 26, 2010 10:47 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Forsaking Norms, For The Love Of The Sport

Oct 26, 2010 10:47 AM

Pilaro’s parents, of course, had an inkling of what was to come for their son. His mother even admitted that she was not thrilled with the idea of her son playing field hockey. “At first, I was like, no, that’s a girls sport,” she recalled.

But as they realized that their son’s love of field hockey was more than a passing phase, they became quite fiercely committed themselves to making sure he could continue to play and preserve his dream of one day competing in the Olympics.

International stardom is still a big dream that is a long way away for the middle school student, but for now, his presence on the team is has received an overwhelmingly positive response.

Caitie Neill, a senior captain on the varsity team, first met Pilaro when he attended a summer workout, and she said he fit in right away.

“When I saw him walk up, I didn’t know if he was going to play with us or what the deal was, but when I saw him walk on the field and watched him play, I was totally blown away,” she said. Neill even asked Pilaro to show her a nifty reverse stick move that she’d never seen, and she said she’s not afraid to ask for tips.

“He’s definitely been an inspiration for our teammates to learn new things,” she said. “He’s really brought us all together. I take advice from him all the time and ask him how he does certain things.”

Neill said he’s admired not only by her teammates but his peers in general. “No one’s trying to humiliate him, and I think he definitely had a lot of guts to play on a team with a bunch of older girls,” she said. “He just really wants to play no matter what and it shows.”

Pilaro’s dedication to field hockey has been tested even further this season as a mini-controversy has cropped up regarding his uniform. Pilaro began playing with the standard-issue jersey along with a pair of black nylon shorts, as opposed to the UnderArmour-style skirts that the rest of the team wears. But after his first game, Hannigan and junior varsity head coach Cassie Gallo were informed by Section XI that Pilaro had to adhere to rules, which state that all student-athletes must wear the same uniform.

That directive has raised the ire of both Ms. Pilaro and Hannigan, who feel that forcing Pilaro to wear a skirt is an unnecessary enforcement serving no obvious purpose, except—in his mother’s view—to humiliate him.

This year, Pilaro has continued to wear shorts for games, although a skirt is brought along in case an the officials insist he wear it—which has happened.

When Hannigan told Pilaro that next year the team would order new uniforms with shorts instead of skirts to address the issue, she was surprised by Pilaro’s response.

“He told me, ‘That’s okay—I can wear the kilt,’” Hannigan recalled, adding that Pilaro told her he felt it would be unfair to the rest of the team to make them order uniforms with shorts just for his sake.

Hannigan said his willingness to wear the skirt is an illustration of his unwavering dedication to field hockey.

“He’s genuinely a superb kid,” she said. “He’s so passionate. He’s willing to wear a skirt and be on a bus with 35 girls. He just wants to play the sport he’s passionate about.”

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