Last week, a high school boys’ soccer team in Mesa, Ariz., opted to forfeit a game because the opposing team had two female players.
According to Richard Obert of AZCentral.com, Faith Christian School cited religious beliefs as its reason for declining to play against Foothills Academy College Prep’s soccer team, of which sisters Alyssa and Collete Hocking are members.
“I know it appears to fly in the face of what everyone is wanting to promote today, and that is equality,” said Dick Buckingham, administrative leader of Faith Christian, to Obert. “It is based on a religious perspective that God created guys and girls differently. The difference physically, there is a strength advantage that men have over women. We want to teach our men that honor of ladies is just not in sports. We struggle how to teach that if we’re allowing them to play against young ladies in a competitive game.”
According to Obert, Foothills had already confronted this situation with a different school, Our Lady of Sorrows, earlier this year. For that game, the sisters’ mother decided to have them sit out so the rest of the team could play. This time around, however, the Foothills team refused to play without the Hockings.
“Actually, it was the team’s decision,” Foothills coach Steven Rains told Obert. “They would not play without their team. They felt the girls earned the right to be on the team. And they won’t play without them.”
In a statement on Faith Christian’s Facebook page, the school clarified that it reached out to Foothills prior to the game to express its concern about playing against the girls. When Foothills declined the request to have the Hocking sisters sit out, the school “accepted that and informed them and the league that we would forfeit the game,” more than 24 hours before the game was set to take place. The school also elaborated on its position:
One of the priorities we have for our young men is that we desire for them to have proper understanding of, honor, and respect for women. In the matter of the playing competitive varsity-level contact sports, we believe it to be an inconsistent message to allow them to compete athletically against teams that include women. This has nothing to do with the ability or strength of female players, or winning and losing. It is about building character in our young men.
Stephen Rains, the head soccer coach at Foothills, responded to the Facebook post, writing, “We respect your policies. Our boys agreed that they wouldn’t play without their teammates. You respected that decision. There aren’t any feelings of ill will that I am aware of.”
Randy Baum, executive director of the Canyon Athletic Association, told Obert that schools in the league are allowed to have girls play on boys’ teams if they don’t have a girls’ team in that sport. Because Foothills didn’t have enough interested girls to field a girls’ soccer team, the Hockings were allowed to join the boys’ team.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.