Six Utah teenagers and their parents are suing the Jordan, Granite, and Canyons school districts over the lack of a girls’ football team. The lawsuit asks that the districts give equal opportunity to both girls and boys.
The girls all play on the Utah Girls Tackle Football League, which is currently their only choice. The league is not a bad option, in fact, it is the perfect opportunity for girls to get involved in the sport initially. The rules are designed to create more opportunities for girls to run, throw, and catch the ball. The league plays with smaller teams and uses smaller balls that are easier to grip.
“I just love the sport so much,” says 14-year-old Lauren Dixon. “I can’t imagine my life without it.”
Safety is a huge priority for the coaches and staff of the league. Football is a full contact sport, but through instructing a “Heads Up” style of play, they can teach the team members to avoid serious injury.
However, the girls miss out on the high school sports experience. There are no cheerleaders or bands to fire up the crowd at the games, they can’t play with their schoolmates, and there are no opportunities to earn scholarships.
“It’s not okay for boys to have more opportunities than girls,” says player Madelyn Calchera.
Both Dixon and Calchera have played on the boys’ teams at their schools, but while they enjoyed it, they would have enjoyed it more if it was an all-girls team. Lauren’s father didn’t mind her playing on the boys’ team. However, he didn’t want to see her get hurt. He would never restrict her from playing the sport she loves, but he wishes there was a safer option.
“We already have a handful of female students participating in football across the district and if interest were to grow, we are certainly open to hosting officially sanctioned teams as appropriate in the future,” says Ben Horsley, the spokesperson for Granite School District. “However, our own internal surveys and current participation levels indicate that we are not even close to that type of interest at this point in time, no matter what this lawsuit presupposes.”
Attorney Loren Washburn believes the school districts cannot assume that there is not enough interest in all-girls football. If there were the opportunity, more girls would take an interest in playing.
In 2008, Utah schools formed all-girls golf teams, and participation went from a few dozen girls who played with the boys, to over 1,000 girls who play currently. If schools created the same opportunity for girls football, girls would play.
“Canyons school district will continue to review and discuss the issues included in the complaint. Our high schools currently support student athletes, both girls and boys, as they compete in Utah High School Activity Association-sanctioned activities. We believe there are substantial opportunities for all of our student athletes to excel on the playing field, while also becoming college and career ready in the classroom,” said Jeff Haney, the spokesperson for Canyons School District.
There is no comment from Jordan School District.
We hope these girls succeed in their fight to secure girls’ football in their high schools, and maybe one day girls’ football will be a standard in every high school across the country.
Featured Image by Joe Gratz on Flickr
CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication
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