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11-year-old girl banned from football by Catholic youth organization

By David Self Newlin  |  Posted Jan 9th, 2013 @ 11:41am


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DOYELSTOWN, Penn. — 11-year-old Caroline Pla is pretty good at football, if you ask her teammates and parents. She has been playing since she was 5 years old.

"She is really good. She can kick my butt sometimes, and I can kick her's sometimes," former teammate Jake Kueny told Philadelphia's FOX 29.

"Former" is the key word there. After two seasons playing for the Romans, a team sponsored by the Philadelphia Catholic Youth Organization, she was told she could not return to the team next season.

"They told me this season that there's a rule in CYO that girls can't play that it's only for boys and that I'm not allowed to return after this season," Pla said.

The CYO said that she has been allowed to play as long as she has due to an administrative oversight and "percieved ambiguity" in the group's rules.

"There are policies in place governing CYO sports," a spokesperson said in a statement. "CYO football is a full contact sport designated for boys. There has been some perceived ambiguity in the policy regarding this point. It is currently being reviewed and will be addressed moving forward to provide complete clarity."


"They told me this season that there's a rule in CYO that girls can't play that it's only for boys and that I'm not allowed to return after this season." Caroline Pla

That's not good enough for her Pla and her parents. They say years of training and good coaches have taught her to play right, and that the decision to ban her from the sport is discrimination.

Coach Jim Reichwein agrees and would like to see her on the team, calling her remarkable player.

"If you can tackle, if you can block, if you can run, it has nothing to do with whether you are a girl, or a boy, or live in a mansion or are homeless or the color of your skin," Reichwein said "Football the game figures it out."

The family has started an online petition calling for the CYO to allow girls to play. It currently has 8,419 signatures on it.

Famed Utah 9-year-old football player Sam Gordon signed the petition and offered her support to Pla.

"I am a nine year old girl and play tackle football with boys," Gordon said in a comment on the petition. "I play football because it is fun and it is good exercise. I was the smallest player in the league and did not get hurt even though I played almost every down. Caroline should be allowed to play.

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Pla has said she's doing this not only for herself, but for other girls who might want to play football.

"I called (the Philadelphia archdiocese) and thanked them, but then I asked them if we could change the rules so that maybe other girls could play," she said.

When parents and coaches told her that her that she would not have another season after 2012, she was upset. But she was equally concerned about her biggest fan, Gracie, a 4th grader who wants to follow in her footsteps.

"She wasn't happy about it, but her first question was 'What about Gracie?'" according to her mother Marycecilia Pla.

The archdiocese has not answered Pla's request yet, according to her mother.

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