It was a huge Title IX victory in Pennsylvania this morning, as a 12-year-old girl from Philadelphia won her crusade to play football for a Catholic Youth team.
Caroline Pia, who has played organized football since kindergarten and for the past two years was an All Star guard and defensive end, was told last fall the no-girls rule would be enforced in her Bucks County league.
The player and her family petitioned the archdiocese, leading to Thursday’s decision from Archbishop Charles J. Chaput and a reversal of the rule.
“It’s a great step for the future of the church,” said Caroline’s mother, Marycecelia Pla of Doylestown. “Archbishop Chaput is starting with young girls, who are the future of the church, and I thank him for it.”
The Plas had taken their fight to the media, with frequent interviews and TV appearances including the Ellen Degeneres show. But they were not hopeful given their exchanges with the church officials, who had expressed concerns about safety and the potential for inappropriate touching. A Change.org petition asking the Archdiocese to reconsider recieved more than 100,000 signatures.
“I didn’t even really think the rule was going to be changed because of all the things that they said,” said Caroline, who turns 12 on Wednesday. “Today is like double (excitement) for Catholics because now girls can play football and there’s a new pope.”
Pia a twin and one of four children, had previously played on a Pop Warner team, and could have returned to that public league. However, she wanted to stay with friends and neighbors on her CYO “Romans” team.She does not plan to play in high school because she probably won’t be big enough to play tackle at that level. She is currently 5-foot-3 and 110-pounds, and made the all-star team last season.
Women’s Sports Foundation Senior Director of Advocacy, Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a leading voice in this issue’s national conversation said “we are thrilled about the victory and the precedent it sets.” The WSF believes co-ed training and competition fosters mutual respect, and takes boys and girls out of what one former Olympian called “these straightjackets of gender roles.”She believes the publicity surrounding Pla’s fight “makes it that much less likely that another school or sports league is going to do the same thing.”
On the heels of 9-year-old Samantha Gordon getting national attention for her running and tackling skills, and other girls succeeding on the gridiron, this is another victory for female football players.