Switching Playing Fields, Chapter 2

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Chapter 2

Many of the rules didn't seem unreasonable. Some were the same as the ones for the football team.

Don't miss practice unless you have an excuse.

You must maintain a "C" average to be eligible.

No failing grades.

Discipline problems in the classroom will result in suspension from the team.

No use of profanity.

Coaches, teachers and parents are to be addressed by "Yes, sir; Yes, ma'am."

The problem came a little bit in the dress code.

Practice gear: Warm weather -- spandex shorts (Ok, guys can get away with that), team practice t-shirts, sports bra (try telling your mom you need one), cleats. Cold weather -- sweat pants, sweat shirts, which can be substituted for Under Armour.

Game uniform: Sleeveless jersey, with matching long sleeve Under Armour top for cold weather; skirt and matching bottom, with Under Armour bottom worn during cold weather; sports bra matching color of uniforms. Coach Martin will make the decision if cold weather gear is to be worn. State rules mandate there must be no variation of uniforms, with the exception of safety equipment worn by the goalkeeper.

Bring leotard (they've got to be kidding!) Friday for coaches to take measurements for skirt, jersey and bra sizes.

Oh, there's more:

Hygene rules: Legs shaved. Since you'll be wearing a sleeveless jersey on gamedays, arm pits shaved (OK, I know what you're thinking, I'm in seventh grade, but I have a few hairs there finally).

Gameday dress code: We are borrowing a tradition from the football team. Their players were shirts, ties, slacks.

Our players will wear dresses (similar to what you would wear to church, to social functions, if you have a question about it, ask Coach Martin or Coach Parker).

That was the part I was hoping there would be an exception. Maybe I can get away with wearing a shirt, tie and slacks.

But the other rule, there may be no way around: On travel days, players will change into uniforms at lunch and wear them to class before we depart.

What have I gotten myself into?

#####

Mom had a pretty good laugh about it, but we went to the sporting goods store and bought the spandex shorts and sports bras for practice. Our team t-shirts would be passed out at practice.

School began OK. I was kidded a few times by some of the guys on the football team. I was shoved out of the way by Gina Lenetti and another eighth grader on the field hockey team when I was walking down the hall on the way to my locker.

"We're going to make it hard on you that you'll quit!" She shouted after shoving me.

The real torture came during my 10 o'clock P.E. class. More teasing, including from Coach Jackson.

I was surprised to see Beth in the class.

"The football players in class will have weight training on Tuesdays and Thursdays, that's why Garrison's here," Coach Jackson said.

"Heard practice was a bit tough for you yesterday," she said before we started our exercising.

She had no idea. I was intentionally tripped several times during scrimmage by some of the eighth graders on the squad. I was placed in goal for part of the scrimmage and some of the girls weren't aiming for goals...they were aiming for some place else.

"It went OK," I said.

I didn't want to tell her that. Her practice, from what I understand, went really well. She turned out to be the best receiver at practice, although she still went through some kidding.

"They're not going to make me quit," she said defiantly.

Quitting for me would seem to be an easy way out. I didn't tell her that.

Right before we were about to do jumping jacks, Gina Lenetti walked into the gym and handed Coach Jackson a note.

"Lacy, come here!" He said with a laugh. "You've been transferred to girls' P.E."

Ok, can I be any more humiliated.

"Come along, Lucas, Coach Martin's not going to start Pilates until you get there," Gina said, loud enough and sarcastically enough that everyone heard.

There reason I was transferred was for much the same reason Beth was transferred to boys P.E.

"Field hockey, volleyball players and cheerleaders have weight training together on Mondays and Wednesdays," Coach Martin told me after I joined her class. "We rotate with the boys."

####

Sore, bruised, sweaty and dirty.

That's how I felt sitting in Coach Martin's office.

"How serious are you about being on the team?" she asked.

I tried to tell her I was serious, although I really didn't know if I was. Maybe it was easier to go ahead and quit.

She told me she knew about the "bet" I had with Beth. Most of the team knew it.

That was one of the myriad of reasons they were doing everything in their power to make me quit.

Other players had other reasons, including Gina.

And Coach Parker was encouraging them. She was what Coach Martin called "old guard" who played back in the ages before Title IX and clearly didn't want me on the team because she felt I might be taking a spot from one of the girls if I were on the field.

And Coach Martin explained to me that some people felt a boy on the team gave the team a competitive advantage because of the physical difference between boys and girls.

"But that's not an issue with you," she said.

It was true. Ability-wise, size-wise, I was right in the middle.

"I want you to think long and hard about whether or not you want to do this," she said. "The torment you get on the practice field, here at school, will only be worse once we take the field for games. You're going to hear it from fans, the other teams, parents."

She had a point. And she seemed to care about what I thought.

She was giving me an excuse to quit the team. But then she stunned me by what she told me next.

"I'll be honest with you, Lucas," she said. "I was like everyone else. I didn't want you on this team and really didn't have a problem with your mistreatment by other players on this team. But I've been impressed with your effort the last two days in practice."

"Thanks coach," I said. I didn't know what to say.

"Truth is, we have only 14 players on this team," Coach Martin said. "I have to put 11 players on the field. If we get many players hurt, we're in trouble. If you truly want to be on this team, I want you on this team. But I want you to think long and hard about wanting to be on this team."

She'd given me a lot to think about.

"I want you to read this book," she said, handing me a book about the history of girls athletics. It was written by one of her coaches in college.

"I want you to understand what female athletes have to go through," she said. "It was an honor for me when I played to be a Lady Tiger, both here and at the high school. I'm willing to invest my time to make you the best field hockey player you can be. But you've got to prove to me this is what you want. I want to know that you want to be a Lady Tiger."



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