Rather Than Remove Female Members, This Youth Basketball Team Forfeited Their Season

In a show of solidarity, a group of New Jersey fifth graders exemplified the true meaning of being a team. After being told that it would have to disband for being coed, the St. John's basketball team decided that it would rather forfeit the remainder of the season than play without its two female team members. The team has been playing together for the last four years. Two weeks ago, it learned from the league's director that it should never have been coed in the first place. The two girls on the team had been playing alongside the boys because there weren't enough girls to form a separate all-girls team. With two games to go, the team unanimously decided to forfeit the rest of the season and keep the girls. According to NJ.com, the team's record was also wiped, because having the girls play on the team was deemed "illegal." The decision came during a game against a team from St. Bartholomew the Apostle. When the teams, coaches, and officials couldn't come to a decision, they left it up to the players themselves and the kids showed an awesome commitment to camaraderie and teamwork. "One parent told me it's my decision (whether the girls play), but I said no way, I'm not making this decision for 11 10-year-olds," Rob Martel, St. John's coach, told NJ.com. The parents wanted to be clear to the team what would happen. When it was put up for a vote, the team's solidarity shined. Matthew Dohn, one of the parents in attendance, asked the team if it would rather play without the girls or play as a team. Every kid's hand shot up when they were presented with the option to stay together. Not a single player voted for the alternative. When they were told that they wouldn't be able to participate in the playoffs, the kids chanted "unity" and stuck with their decision. The show of team spirit brought some parents to tears.
While the St. Barts team left, there was still a game that night. Instead of feeling down, the St. John team split for a friendly game, girls included. Later, the school's athletic director said that he had made an error in allowing the coed team to exist for as long as it had. "It has a big impact on me because it shows that they care. I'm part of them just as they're part of me and they don't want to break that bond just like I don't want to break that bond," Kayla Martel, one of the female players, told NJ.com after the game. "I think the rules are ridiculous." While parents and coaches did fight for the team to continue as-is and even gained the support of the archdiocese's new Cardinal, they were met with legal hurdles. If there aren't enough girls to form a team next year, the female players at St. John will have to play for other parishes.

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