Two New York high school athletes could find themselves removed from the volleyball team, not because of their play or academic performance, but because of their gender.
Seniors Andrew Lafortezza and Jason Elbaum have been playing for the girls’ volleyball team at Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua ever since the boys’ team was scratched due to budgetary constraints. Intense discussion about the setup has led officials to examine whether the mixed competition rule needs to be modified.
“I’m very concerned with the fact that we have two boys playing on a girls’ team,” said New York State Public High School Athletic Association Executive Director Robert Zayas. “I’m concerned there’s a significant adverse effect on other teams.”
He added: “We want to encourage participation, but we also want to make sure we’re not doing it at the expense of other athletes. When you look at mixed competition, was that the intent of the rule?”
Some people are worried that the boys have a physical advantage over the girls.
Peter Kuczma, the athletic director at Greeley High, downplayed that notion. “There are advantages when you put boys on the court, but these kids are not intimidating,” he said. “When Andrew sets a ball, he does it very nicely…Today’s female athlete is much bigger, faster and stronger than they were 20 years ago.”
Kim Cleary, the boys’ volleyball coach at Suffern High School, disagrees with Kuczma.
“Having coached both boys and girls and being around this sport for 20 years, I can attest that it absolutely makes a difference,” she said. “Even if they’re not hitting at the front, they’re blocking at the front of the net. There’s absolutely no reason Horace Greeley couldn’t have formed a team and been part of our league. Those two boys are taking two spots from two girls. You watch my boys hit and block, then watch girls do it and tell me if it’s all the same.”
A decision about the situation is expected to be made in December.