Who says girls can’t play the same sports as boys? The Catholic Youth Organization in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, that’s who. The CYO told Caroline Pla, a 6th grader at Cold Spring Elementary in Doylestown, Pennsylvania she can no longer play football.
“They told me this season that there’s a rule in CYO that girls can’t play that it’s only for boys and that I’m not allowed to return after this season,” Caroline explained.
Caroline, now 11, has played football since she was 5-years-old, and after playing the last two seasons with the Roman’s squad run by the Philadelphia CYO the organization now says she can’t suit up with the rest of her teammates next season.
“I felt that they thought I wasn’t good enough. It was discrimination, it just didn’t feel good to think you’re not good enough to play with them,” Caroline told FOX 29.
George Pla, Caroline’s father said she was angry, “and didn’t understand the unfairness of it.”
No doubt she’s seen the attention that 9-year-old Sam(antha) Gordon is getting for her prowess on the Gridiron. Gordon, who plays with a boys team in Texas, has been featured on Sports Center, NFL Today and even on a Wheaties Box.
In a statement, the CYO says the decision was based on a policy that football is a full contact sport designated for boys.
“There are policies in place governing CYO sports. CYO football is a full contact sport designated for boys. There has been some perceived ambiguity in the policy regarding this point. It is currently being reviewed and will be addressed moving forward to provide complete clarity.” signed Kenneth A. Gavin, Associate Director of Communications.
“Our first approach is really a plea for common sense — the rule is old, it’s archaic, it’s proven that girls can play sports,” Pla told FOX 29.
The family started a petition on change.org calling for an update to the CYO rules. “Archdiocese of Philadelphia CYO Office: Stop Discrimination – Change the CYO Football Rule – Allow Girls to Play.”
“She can hold her own, she knows how to play the sport, she has had great coaches, I think that is huge because they have taught her to tackle the right way, to block the right way, and then that way if you do those things, use the tools, you’re not going to get hurt,” Seal Pla, Caroline’s Mom said.
Her teammate and neighbor Jake Kueny agrees saying, “She is really good. She can kick my butt sometimes and I can kick her’s sometimes.”
This selfless 11-year-old isn’t just fighting for her right to play, she wants other girls to have the same experience she had.
“I called them [CYO] and thanked them but then I asked them if we could change the rules so that maybe other girls could play,” Caroline said.
Her mom explained how younger girls in the neighborhood look up to her and even dressed up as her for Halloween. “She wants other girls to have that dream too.”
Coach Jim Reichwein, calls Caroline a remarkable player and inspiration to everyone around her. “If you can tackle, if you can block, if you can run, it has nothing to do with whether you are a girl, or a boy, or live in a mansion or are homeless or the color of your skin, football the game figures it out.”
But more than love of the game Caroline says she will miss being a part of the group. “My favorite thing was probably all the friends that I made through it and they are all like my brothers now and that’s the best part.”