Wednesday, April 23, 2008

NYC Schools Contemplate Fall Season for Girls' Soccer

In New York City's Public School Athletic League, girls' soccer is a spring sport. But parents, coaches, and gender equity advocates are urging the League to move the sport to the fall, the season it is played in the rest of the state. They have already complained to the Office for Civil Rights, and according to this article, a lawsuit may be looming.

If the League is smart, it will not wait to be sued to change the season for girls' soccer. Federal courts have already ruled that nontraditional seasons can violate Title IX, if one sex is singled out for the less advantageous season. Soccer in the spring causes problems for female athletes. In addition to precluding them from participating in the state tournament, it also makes it harder for the athletes to get year-round play, a necessity for elite players seeking to develop their skills to the college level. Many development programs run in the spring to avoid conflict with and to supplement the high school season. For NYC girls, these two opportunities overlap, taxing their schedules and their bodies during the spring and leaving them with limited soccer options in the fall. Since the League schedules boys' soccer in the fall, in sync with the rest of the state, it seems this disadvantage is borne only by female athletes.

Resistance to Title IX's application here would be both futile and costly. The Michigan interscholastic athletic association litigated for years to keep girls' basketball in the spring and 5 other girls' sports in nontraditional seasons. In the end, it not only lost, but had to pay $7.4 million to the plaintiffs' attorneys. Hopefully the Public School Athletic League will avoid taking a similar approach.