An Alabama recreation center is facing criticism after a basketball team of 10-year-old girls beat their all-male opponents for the league championship, but the center awarded the losing boys the winner’s trophy.
The rec center in Hoover, Alabama, invited the victorious girls to the awards ceremony, according to Jayme Mashayekh, one of the girls’ moms. But it consisted of watching the boys they had just beaten get the championship trophy.
“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 wrote on Facebook.
She wrote in an update that the city and the rec center have since offered to “make things right for the girls,” but didn’t provide details. HuffPost was unable to reach Mashayekh or Hoover officials.
Mashayekh explained on Facebook, in a post dated Feb. 28, that her daughter Rylie had played with other girls for three years in a competitive girl’s league representing a Birmingham suburb called Spain Park, which is in the Hoover School District.
“Half way through their season they were told they could not use the Hoover gyms for their practices unless they paid to play in the Hoover rec league,” Mashayekh wrote. She said the girls were told that “to stay together as a team they had to play up a level in competition,” which pitted them against 5th-grade boys.
Through the season, Mashayekh said, the girls were “middle of the pack,” though they lost several games by 1 point.
“Playing the boys was a challenge they rose to meet,” the mom wrote. “It made them better players and a better team.”
Right before the championship, the girls team was informed they could play, but wouldn’t receive the championship trophy if they won.
“‘Excuse me? What?’” Mashayekh wrote. “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?!?!”
The girls ended up winning the whole tournament. As promised, they didn’t get the trophy.
A Facebook user commenting on Mashayekh’s post explained that the rec center has limited gym space and high demand, so teams that have played together are asked to join a rec league for practice time.
“Most coaches want to keep their [elite] team together and play them in the rec league,” the user wrote. “Since this would be an unfair advantage because most of the ... teams are comprised of the best players, they are required to play ‘up’ by two grade levels. In this case, the girls are in 5th grade and there is no 7th grade girls rec league so they had to play against the 5th grade boys.”
On Monday, the city said in a statement that its parks and recreation department is reviewing youth athletic league policies “to ensure that all competition and recognition procedures are fair to all participants and that those procedures are more clearly understood.”
The statement added that current policy denied a winner’s trophy to a boys team that played out of its grade level in the recent tournament, just as it did for the girls.
The winning girls and the boys who received the championship trophy are scheduled to be recognized at Monday night’s City Council meeting.