HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Some Long Island high school athletes complain they’re being benched because they’re boys.
They say all they want is to join the gymnastics team, but they’re not allowed.
Christian Berbert is a 5’3″, 110 pound gymnast on Long Island with dreams of becoming an NCAA star. He’s prepared since he was a toddler to make his high school team.
“There’s only a girls team and they say no for me to join it,” he told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan.
Liam Summers, another 15-year-old Suffolk County gymnast, is 5’7 and 122 pounds. He, too, was denied a chance to compete.
“More annoying that upsetting because the reasons they’ve given us are completely invalid,” he said.
It isn’t that coaches at Connetquot High School and Commack High School are adverse to welcoming the boys. It’s because under Section 11 rules, a boy cannot compete in a girls sport if deemed he has too great a competitive advantage.
Officials did not grant CBS2’s request to speak on camera.
“It’s discriminatory no matter how you look at it,” Christian’s father, Wayne, said. “There are a few girls who are playing boys lacrosse. I know girls who have wrestled, and played football, not just kicker. One girl played linebacker.”
The boys’ families question the message it sends that girls are weaker and boys are stronger.
Liam says he asked to compete on the team’s exhibition squad, where the scores don’t count.
“Give him a spot on exhibition,” Liam’s father, Scott, said. “Let him come out and take his floor routine.”
New York State says if approved by an athlete’s school, league, and section, boys are eligible for “mixed competition.”
“In essence, this rule is in place to protect the equity and the fairness in sports,” Executive Director of the NY State Public School Athletic Institution Robert Zayas said.” If a boy is interested in participating on a girls team, we need to make sure it is done in a fair and equitable and safe manner.”
Gymnastics is non-contact, the boys pointed out.
“It’s like a dream shattered, they took something away from me,” Christian said. “I have wanted to do this my whole life. Take it and throw it away.”
Both families have appealed the decision to block the boys from the girls teams. So far, their appeals have been denied by Section 11. Meanwhile, the state and county say the goal is to avoid taking a team spot away from a girl and giving it to a boy.