In early February, a situation occurred at a small Catholic school in central Kansas regarding one of their basketball games. A high school boys basketball game was about to occur at St. Mary’s Academy. One of the two referees chosen to officiate the game was a woman, Michelle Campbell. Just before the game was to begin, St. Mary’s officials told Ms. Campbell that she would not be allowed to officate the game. The explanation that she was given was that it was inappropriate for a woman to officiate a boys game because a woman should not be put in a position of authority over boys. Because of this decision, the other referee and back-up referee, both men decided not to referee the game in protest of the school’s decision.
This was not the first time St. Mary’s Academy has been involved in a dispute between boys and females on the athletic field. In September 2004, St. Mary’s was supposed to play White City High School in a football game. However, when the St. Mary’s administrators found out that one of White City’s football players was a girl, they decided that they would rather forfeit the game, rather than play against a girl.
Obviously, St. Mary’s Academy has a very strict policy about their athletic teams. They believe it is inappropriate for boys to either be officiated by women, or for boys to play any sports with or against girls. When I discussed this topic on my weekly radio show on Sportsradio 810WHB, all of the callers to my show were unanimous in their discussion that the St. Mary’s officials are living by antiquated rules and decisions. One of my callers asked if any nuns were teaching any boys at the school, as that would put a woman in a position of authority over boys.
I personally believe that the decision to not allow Ms. Campbell to officiate could have been handled much more appropriately. If this is the school policy, they should have notified the high school activities association in advance and two male referees could have been assigned for the game. It is also very clear that if this is the policy that this school follows, the Kansas High School Activities Association should decide whether they want schools in their organization with these beliefs. I believe these beliefs are wrong and do not teach their students about equality and fairness in sports. This topic brings up a bigger issue.
Is it appropriate for women to coach and/or referee boys games? Is it appropriate for men to coach and/or referee girls games? If someone goes through appropriate training to be a coach or official, it should not matter what sex they are or whether they are coaching members of the opposite sex. I have seen men and women officials at golf matches, tennis tournaments, swim meets, and gymnastics meets. I have never heard of any problems or complaints about male or female officials at these events. I am aware of many teams that have women coaching boys and men coaching girls. As long as someone is trained properly, it should not matter who they are coaching, as long as they are qualified. In today’s society of gender equity, I find it difficult to believe that a school still has this biased philosophy.