Taylor’s Title IX

Tomorrow my older daughter, my first born, goes under the knife to repair a torn LCL, evaluate bone fragments from her knee cap and check her ACL. All damaged about 2 weeks ago in a high school soccer game. Tay thinks she was close to scoring on a crossing pass. She was going to tap the ball around the goalie and dribble in for an easy shot. She doesn’t remember the tackle, just the after effects of laying on the ground screaming in agony after being taken out by the goalie.

This was the 7th minute of the 2nd game of the season. What hurts her and what stings is that she busted her ass all summer to get in shape. We worked out almost every day. And when we didn’t work out, she did body weight workouts in her room: squats, situps, supermans and pushups. She even ran on vacation and tempered her eating at an all inclusive resort in Mexico.  She went to soccer camps.  She was in the best shape of her life and it showed on the field. Her coach even told her so. When you put in the effort and get recognized for it, when you feel it and it shows, there is no feeling like it in the athletic world.

And then you get your knee blown out going 110% for a ball. Doing your job. That’s just not right. I was 120 miles away at Haley’s horse show and I knew exactly what Taylor was feeling when Megan said they were heading to the hospital. I had to walk away from the show. I almost crumbled. Both Taylor and Haley have complete commitment to their craft and it sucks to see that taken from them.

When I saw Taylor the following day, she said exactly what I expected. “I worked so hard all summer…” That feeling of sadness in me came back. But then she said something that took me completely by surprise and made me respect her as an athlete and as a student of the game. Taylor always talks about how she sees the art, the beauty of the game and how amazing it is when it is played right. A perfect pass. “Good ball”. Great shot. Ball control and movement. Possession. Taylor said to me, “We didn’t even get a free kick out of it.” She went on to describe how there were only two referees on the field and that if there had been an AR in position, she would have been tracking back with the ball, looking right at that spot and would have seen the foul. Taylor is a trained referee, she knows how she would have been positioned for that play.

Our standard leg-day workout includes; extensions, curls, calves, squats, inner and outer thigh, and a cable workout to strengthen the kicking motion in both legs. Taylor’s legs are not weak. This kind of trauma does not come from a tackle that hit ball first; a clean tackle. Her team deserved a free kick. Taylor deserved to earn a free kick for her team.

This got me to wondering why there were only two refs on the field at a varsity high school women’s soccer game. We have seen this before in rec. But Taylor has been a referee at U11 games where they staffed the full complement of a referee and 2 ARs. I further wondered, would this situation conform to Title IX? Would there ever be a varsity football game played without a back judge? Certainly not in Texas, but even in New Hampshire?

I don’t really know much about Title IX. I have been reading a lot over the past few days but I admit that it is confusing. The original law didn’t even talk about athletics. That came through the written regulations. Is this fair? Does Tay’s team deserve better treatment? What is the minimum standard for officiating a soccer game? I admit that I don’t know what the men’s varsity team gets, but if 3 is required for safe play, could they be being cheated too?

I absolutely hate the idea of suing to affect change here. And I know the kind of budget constraints and gimmickry that schools play to balance myriad programs for students. But I just feel that there needs to be some acknowledgment to the game that was actually played, that Taylor’s sacrifice meant something. Do injuries occur for fair play? Yes. We see it in football and hockey all the time. But this was different. This feels different and I would probably say that even if it wasn’t Taylor. I admit that my zeal for this cause would not be what it is if it wasn’t my kid. I know Title IX is meant to level the playing field for funding of the programs within a school between the genders. But I wonder if officiating is part of that overall definition and if not, shouldn’t it be? I wish I knew the answer to that. I would certainly work to right that wrong. Because next season, I want to see 3 officials on the soccer field: That’s how Taylor would do it if she was in charge.

About Josh Rutstein

I am an aspiring entrepreneur and hopeful political candidate. Father of 2 very special girls, husband to an amazing woman, and passionate American. I snowboard whenever possible and follow a 20x mentality for exercise. I also play golf and ultimate frisbee and am a die hard New England Patriots fan and season ticket holder. Everyday I wake up wanting to make this country a better place, someday I hope to actually succeed.
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