Coronado’s middle school rugby program is petitioning Southern California Youth Rugby (SCYR) for gender equality in their player eligibility rules.
Coronado’s under 14 rugby team currently has a female player that has been with the team for four years. She earned a place on the team based on the coaches’ assessment of her skill and ability to play safely. However, SCYR will not allow the girl to compete with the Coronado under 14 team as the division is boys only.
The female rugby player is asking SCYR to allow her to play with her team because, “I would like to show other future girls how to tackle ignorance and old mentality away, by trying, intelligence, respect and equality, I want to make Rugby shine in my community, I would have never known how strong I am without my coaches and my teammates; it’s a great feeling.”
Rugby is a contact sport played without pads or helmets. In 2020, SCYR added safety measures for their younger teams with eligibility rules around 1) age, 2) weight, and 3) gender.
- Age: Youth rugby’s four age divisions (under 8, under 10, under 12, and under 14) ensure athletes play against teams of similar ages. If a player wants to compete with an older or younger age group, they can file a waiver with SCYR requesting an exemption to the age requirement.
- Weight: SCYR added weight limits for each age group as an additional safety measure. The under 14 age group has a player weight limit up to 180 pounds. The average under 14 male player weighs 126 pounds. If a youth player exceeds the weight limit, they can submit a waiver to SCYR to be exempt from the weight requirements.
- Gender: Youth rugby is coed for under 8, under 10 and under 12 teams. However, SCYR rules state under 14 and older teams cannot have girls play on the team. No waivers are allowed for gender-based exemptions.
In 2020 SCYR offered 75 exemptions to the age and weight safety guidelines allowing older/younger and heavier boys to play with their preferred teams. SCYR refuses to consider a waiver for an exemption to the gender requirement.
Coronado Rugby Club is not asking SCYR to change their gender rules. Rather, they are asking SCYR to institute a waiver process for the gender requirement to allow a capable and interested girl to compete with a boys’ team. Coronado’s rugby director, Santos Trujillo, shared, “If exceptions to the safety policy can be made for male players over the weight limit, then girls should be given the same option to have an exception to the gender-based safety policy.”
Local rugby mom Kari McCulloch-O’Halloran has a son on the under 14 team and commented, “This girl plays as tough, smart, and fast as many of the boys, and she deserves the opportunity to play with her local team.”
The coaches and players involved agree that safety needs to be the first consideration. However, the girl player, her parents, her team, her coach, and the Coronado rugby director are confident she could play safely. The player’s mother posted on social media, “This was very hard for my daughter and me to take, but at the same time we are so proud and happy that our Rugby family and the great coaches that we have stand firm that any future girl who meets the standards of eligibility to play is able to play!”
Coronado’s petition for SCYR to grant a gender waiver went unanswered until the night before their May 1 match when their request was denied. In solidarity, the Coronado under 14 team refused to play the match without their female teammate.
The following weekend, SCYR gender eligibility rules meant Coronado was not able to play their scheduled match against Belmont Shore Youth Rugby Club. The remainder of the season is in jeopardy for all Coronado’s under 14 rugby players if the girl is not allowed to play on the team.
Coronado Youth Rugby is looking for the Coronado community’s support in asking SCYL to offer a waiver for under 14 girls to play with boys. A newly created Facebook page — Equal Opportunity for Girls to Play Youth Rugby — provides updates on the ongoing campaign. They request you add your voice for Coronado’s gender waiver request by visiting their Facebook page and posting your support for Coronado at SCYR’s various social media sites.