Too Far: Girl barred from soccer tournament because of 'boyish' look
When it comes to sports, I think there are a lot of lessons that occur when competing.
You fight through adversity.
You never give up.
You go hard or go home.
There are winners and losers (even if no one’s keeping score).
The value of teamwork.
All the things that we must learn in real life are reinforced almost every time you play or compete in a sport.
But then again, there are also times when the lessons are not so good.
And, in almost every case in youth sports, the problem lessons are as a result of some three-headed adult on hand that ruins it for everyone.
Eight-year old Mili Hernandez experienced exactly that at a recent soccer tournament in Nebraska.
Hernandez was competing for the Omaha Azzurri Conchorros Under-11 team, which was set to play in the finals of the Springfield Soccer Club tournament. Though only eight, Hernandez is one of the team’s best players.
Four hours before the game, the whole team was disqualified because she looked too much like a boy. Seriously. Somebody made the call based on her short haircut as if she’s the first girl to have short hair at age eight and appear slightly tomboy-ish.
Now think about whoever was in charge of this tournament. First off, the team had already played a number of games and one would assume that the players and player registration forms were checked out before the first game was played.
Second, someone else from some team had to start yapping and complaining that Hernandez had to be a boy. Chances are, some team lost to Hernandez’ team and that team’s coach and parents were having a pity party for themselves and knew a tournament organizer.
What generally happens when sane, responsible people are dealing with such a situation, there is a concerted effort to make sure that the situation is handled the right way and to make sure any innuendo is a fact.
While this is all going on, little Mili is having to feel like the Hunchback at Notre Dame as everyone stared and whispered.
Hernandez’ father, Gerardo, tried to show the tournament officials her health insurance card, but was rebuffed and no one would take a look at the card, which provided proof of her gender.
“I was mad. I never had that problem before. She's been playing so long in different tournaments," Gerardo Hernandez told The Washington Post. "I don't want no problems with nobody, but that wasn't the right way to treat people. They made her cry.”
I find this kind of thing unfathomable, and though I hate lawsuits, I’d be all about it if that was my daughter. She felt like the pariah as she felt she had failed her team somehow. That’s not the type of lessons that anybody should have to take away from playing a sport.
And, it’s not like it was some calculus problem. Figure it out.
If there was a silver lining, it was that U.S. women soccer legends Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach found out about Mili and invited her to their soccer academy via Twitter.
While that’s an awesome gesture, none of it should’ve happened if those who made the decision actually tried to do their jobs and uncover an obvious truth.
And, if you make that kind of decision when dealing with kids, you better be right.
Things have gone too far for too long.
Graham Messner has been a writer for many years and has also been involved in real estate, fundraising and coaching. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.