A city in Alabama is defending itself against criticism following a youth basketball tournament where the parents of a fifth-grade girls team claimed they were not awarded the first-place trophy after defeating a boys recreational team in the title game because they were girls.
Jayme Mashayekh, whose daughter plays in a competitive girls league representing Spain Park, wrote in a Facebook post last week that the team of all Hoover City School students was told during the middle of the season that they could no longer use Hoover facilities to practice in unless they paid to play in the district’s recreational league.
“They were told to stay together as a team they had to play up a level in competition and play the 5th grade boys,” Mashayekh said in the post.
She went on to say that before the championship, the team was told that they could participate but would not be awarded the trophy if they won.
“‘Excuse me? What?’ What did they do to get disqualified? Did they not pay their dues? Did they not play up a level in competition? Oh, it’s because they’re GIRLS?!?!” Mashayekh wrote.
“So sure enough these 5th grade girls played their hearts out, left it all on the floor and battled their male counterparts only to be told, “No, I’m sorry you don’t count.”
Mashayekh called the situation a “hard lesson,” one that she didn’t believe “we should be teaching our boys or girls in this day and age.”
But the city issued a statement on Monday, clarifying that the decision had nothing to do with the team’s gender but rather the Hoover Parks and Recreation Department (HPRD) rules.
“For many years, HPRD has allowed ‘elite’ teams based in Hoover to participate in tournaments it conducts. Those ‘elite’ teams are not sought out by HPRD, but rather they come to HPRD and ask to participate. Members of ‘elite’ teams are hand selected. They do not go through the same talent evaluation as those who participate on regular recreation league teams. Therefore, ‘elite’ teams willingly agree to compete against recreation teams in a different division within their grade level or against teams that are above their grade level to ensure fair competition for all youth athletes.”
The statement continued, “If an ‘elite’ team participates in an HPRD youth tournament and makes it to the championship round, they are not eligible to receive any awards/trophies. Only regular recreation teams are eligible for awards/trophies.”
The statement also noted that these teams “are made aware of and agree” to the rules that do not allow them to collect trophies or awards if they advance to a championship game.
“It is important to note the same provisions have always applied to both girls and boys ‘elite’ teams. HPRD has never treated any team differently based on gender or any other factor, except for the “elite” status of some teams.”
The city also said that in the same tournament, a boys “elite team” won a championship and was not awarded a trophy.
“They were not eligible because of their ‘elite’ status. This winning team included the son of a City of Hoover elected official, which indicates the same rules are applied to all teams, regardless of gender.”
The city said it plans to review its current policies “to ensure competition and recognition procedures are fair to all participants” and also invited both winning teams to attend the Hoover City Council on Monday evening “so that they can be recognized for their recent victories.”