For the past four years, two girls have played alongside the boys on a basketball team at St. John the Apostle School in Clark, New Jersey. But recently, the team was informed that if they wanted to finish the season, the girls had to go.
For the fifth-graders at St. John's, the decision was simple.
According to an Archdiocese of Newark spokesman, the rules of the Catholic Youth Organization league clearly state that basketball teams should be composed of boys or girls only. But St. John's didn't have enough interested girls to form a girls-only team. So four years ago, when two girls expressed interest, St. John's Athletic Director Jack Cajuste allowed them to join the boys' team. He now admits that it was his mistake and that the girls should never have been allowed to play. But when the team was faced with the decision to remove the girls, they decided instead to forfeit the rest of the year, including any remaining games as well as their play-off season.
The vote took place last Friday when, despite the warning, the entire team showed up for the game against St. Bartholomew. The game was delayed while coaches, parents and officials tried to figure out a solution. But it was St. John's coach Rob Martel who decided to let the kids make the decision.
"One parent told me it's my decision [whether the girls play], but I said, 'No way. I'm not making this decision for 11 10-year-olds,'" Martel told ESPN.
When the kids were asked what they wanted to do, all 11 agreed that they would rather forfeit the season than kick the girls off the team.
"It's not fair that we get to move on but they can't," one of the boys told reporters afterward.
After the St. Bart's team left, the 11 members of the St. John's basketball team — boys and girls — broke into two teams and played a game.
It's a game that won't count towards their league standings, but it sure does count where it matters most.