Pilaro Said He Was Told He Couldn't Play Because Of His 'Advanced Skills'

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Imagine being told you aren’t allowed to do something you love because you are better than all the rest. That’s what has happened to a Long Island boy, who plays field hockey on an all-girls team.

Southampton High School’s Keeling Pilaro was the only boy playing the sport on the Island and now he has been banned from playing next season because he was too good at the game, WCBS Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs reported Wednesday.

WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs On The Story

Keeling was good enough in eighth grade to make varsity after having been reared in Ireland, where field hockey is a popular sport. But his dreams were recently dashed after it was deemed his participation had an “adverse effect” on the game.

“They told me I wasn’t allowed to play because I had advanced skills that I learned in Ireland,” Keeling told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan.

Keeling told McLogan that plaing the sport “just means everything” to him.

Mona Rivera of 1010 WINS also talked to Pilaro, who told her, “They told me because I have an adverse effect…and…but they didn’t even explain what the adverse effect was, so that’s what I’m kind of confused about.”

“Adverse effect” can be interpreted as a physical advantage or safety concerns and it could mean keeping a girl from getting playing time or taking away from a female’s ability to garner postseason awards, McLogan reported.

Keeling’s parents were officially notified by Suffolk County’s governing body of high school sports that their son has been denied permission to continue.

“He is not a physical dominating presence on the field by any stretch. In fact, he’s far below the girl’s varsity height and weight,” said Fairley Pilaro, the boy’s mother.

“He feels like he’s being punished for getting better,” Andrew Pilaro, Keeling’s father, told 1010 WINS.

Teammates told CBS 2 they don’t think Keeling’s skill level is depriving others of opportunity, calling the ruling reverse discrimination. Keeling was high scorer for Southampton this season with 11 goals. The county leader had 21 and she told CBS 2 “The ruling is ridiculous.”

Some people, however, think the ruling is fair.

“At a certain age, it’s not fair. Boys are getting bigger and stronger. They have an advantage,” Ward Melville High School athlete Zack Sitron told Xirinachs on Wednesday.

Though Pilaro has grown two inches since last summer, the Suffolk County athletic governing body said that was not a factor in the decision.

Keeling Pilaro playing field hockey (credit: Handout via Mona Rivera / 1010 WINS)

Keeling Pilaro playing field hockey (credit: Handout via Mona Rivera / 1010 WINS)

“I love playing with other people — it’s just really good. I hope in the end that I’ll be able to play,” Pilaro said.

“They said ‘This is a predominately girls sport. How will your friends think about it? What if you get teased?'” he said.

Keeling’s response was “‘If I’m playing a sport that I love, I don’t care,'” the boy’s father said.

Xirinachs reported that Pilaro’s family has already lost an appeal, with a second appeal set to be heard in May.

Nationwide, 308 boys played field hockey on girl’s teams and dozens of concerned parents lodged official complaints.

Do you think the ruling is fair? Sound off below.