Monday, February 19, 2007

For Female HS Swimmers in NY, Same Season Means Unequal Treatment

At high schools in the Buffalo and Niagara region, both girls' and boys' swimming is a winter sport. But as it turns out, the girls are uniquely disadvantaged by this seemingly equal treatment. This is because the state tournament for girls swimming is in the fall, to coordinate with the season for girls swimming season in the rest of New York state.

The Niagara Gazette explains why this is actually a difficult problem to solve. The small high schools with winter swim seasons can't move the girls' season to fall without threatening the viability of already existing fall sports, including volleyball, soccer and field hockey. Such a move would also create a potential void of winter opportunities, leaving basketball, cheerleading, and indoor track the only remaining sports.

Getting the rest of the state to join the Buffalo and Niagara schools with a winter swim season for both boys and girls would solve the problem, but getting the majority to conform to the minority's schedule is a solution that lacks feasibility. According to the article, another partial solution that has been suggested in past is "having extremely talented small-school girls swimmers who can qualify to compete with the boys in the winter sectionals." But, the article explains this won't work because, "state laws prohibit both male and female swimmers in the pool at the same time." This struck me as kid of an odd law, and I have failed in my initial efforts to track it down. Does New York state law prohibits coed swimming competitions? Or does it prohibit girls and boys from generally being in the pool at the same time? Either way, it strikes me as the kind of law that should yield to the efficacy of a partial solution. In Massachusetts, a superior court judge recently held that the boys golf tournament could not exclude a girl (whose season did not correspond with state girls tournament) from the state boy's tournament. NY might consider the principle reflected in that case -- that everybody should have the opportunity to at least try to qualify for a season-ending tournament in their sport.

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