Let her play Prep sports controversy: Adults should take cue from kids on girl's desire to play baseball.

March 25, 1996

THE KIDS on the Arundel High School baseball team are playing nicely. It's the grown-ups who are causing trouble.

Since she was seven, Becky Carlson, now 14, has been playing baseball with boys. Nobody has ever had a problem with that -- until now. All of a sudden, state and Anne Arundel County school athletic administrators are kicking up a stink over Becky, saying she ought to be playing girls' softball. Their argument: Federal regulations do not require that schools allow girls to play boys sports (and vice versa) when a comparable sport -- in this case, softball -- exists. Becky doesn't have to play with boys. Therefore, she should not.

Becky and her family are not moved by this rather feeble reasoning. County school Superintendent Carol S. Parham and her staff will have to settle the matter, probably later this week. This shouldn't be a tough call. Becky can play junior varsity baseball with boys her age. She has been doing it successfully for years. So why shouldn't she now?

We have separate teams for boys and girls and men and women largely for one reason: 99 percent of the time, physical differences make it impossible for the sexes to compete on an even keel. If, in rare cases, the physical differences don't matter -- as they apparently do not in Becky's case -- the reason for separating the sexes diminishes. Perhaps in the next few years, as male teammates grow bigger and stronger, this young woman may not be able to hold her own with them on the playing field. For now, however, she can, and that's both a testament to her own ability and an example to other kids that competence can transcend barriers such as gender, age or physical make-up.

The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association is making a lot of noise about how letting a girl play baseball could erode opportunities for girls. If girls start playing baseball, it predicts, boys could take over softball. That's a red herring. Females have some incentive to play with males; it's a challenge to try to compete against someone stronger. It doesn't usually work the other way around. Even if boys did invade softball and force the girls out, there would be a solution: Create a boys' softball team. Here's what's really bad for girls: Telling them they're not allowed to achieve even when they can.

Pub Date: 3/25/96

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