PORT ANGELES — The issue of gender equality has grounded temporarily much of the Port Angeles Youth Soccer Club’s spring season.
All practice and games for U10, U12 and U14 boys and girls teams were postponed Tuesday for an indefinite time, according to e-mails sent by the PAYSC board to coaches.
The coed U8 teams continue to practice as usual.
Mike Ioffrida, a coach for a boys U12 team, sent an e-mail to the parents of his players Tuesday to notify them of the practice and playing postponement.
“We were supposed to have a practice [Tuesday night] at 5:30,” Ioffrida said by telephone at 5 p.m.
“I will go down to the practice field in case any of the parents didn’t receive the e-mail.”
First game Saturday
Ioffrida’s team was starting its second week of practice and was supposed to have its first game of the season Saturday morning.
“The kids were all excited because the season was set to begin,” Ioffrida said.
According to Ioffrida, someone on the board told him the postponement would last seven to 10 days.
“The Port Angeles Youth Soccer Club has temporarily postponed its spring league,” PAYSC President Darin Reidel wrote in an e-mail Tuesday night.
“The season has not been canceled at this time, and the club hopes to resume practices and play soon.
“The club is currently addressing a very serious allegation of discrimination by the parents of a boy who is unable to play because of low enrollment among the older boys soccer division.”
A lack of boys in the U14 age group seems to be behind a dispute between soccer parents Andrew May and Carmen Czachor and the PAYSC board that led to the postponement.
Only 13 boys in the U14 age group registered to play this spring, but 24 girls signed up for the same age group.
There weren’t enough boys to form a viable league, while the low girls numbers meant a female league of three small teams of only eight players each.
Boys without a league
That meant that Spencer May, son of May and Czachor, and the other 12 boys in that age group would not be able to play soccer this season.
“We are aligned on the issues here,” May said about him and his wife, “and it’s more than about our son playing.”
It’s an equality issue for all the boys, May said.
For years, PAYSC had coed teams for all age groups.
That changed in 2009 when the youth organization began offering separate teams for boys and girls 9 and older.
“The club’s experience with coed play for children 8 years of age and older was that it did not provide boys and girls the best opportunity to develop their soccer skills and learn a love for the game,” Reidel wrote in the e-mail.
“The club believes that was and is the right decision. The boy’s parents were pressuring the club to make decisions quickly, and the reason for the postponement is to give the club the time it needs to address the issue responsibly,” he wrote.
May said he and Czachor are not against separate teams for the older children as long as there are enough boys and girls to form separate teams.
But when there isn’t, the boys should be allowed to play on girls teams.
Baseball lures some
In the fall, the PAYSC has no problem filling up boys teams, but there’s an issue in spring because more boys choose to play youth baseball instead of soccer.
Spencer May learned that there was a U14 girls team practicing at his own school, Stevens Middle School. He heard about it from one of the girls on the team, his father said.
Spencer May began practicing with the team.
“He was accepted by the girls on the team,” Andrew May said.
At the third practice, the board kicked Spencer off the girls team and offered to refund his registration, his father said.
“Spencer practiced twice, and early in the third practice when the team started running drills, the coach called [Reidel], who told me they would refund our registration and Spencer could not practice with the girls,” Andrew May said.
Spencer May’s parents did not accept the refund and insisted that Spencer was a member of that team, the parents wrote in e-mails to the board.
“The club decided to postpone the season after the parents of the boy twice disrupted a girls team’s practices and gave the board good reason to believe that further disruptions of practices and games would occur if the club did not agree with the parents’ demands to allow the boy to play on a girls team,” Reidel wrote in the e-mail.
Andrew May, who writes a weekly gardening column for the Peninsula Daily News, and Czachor gave two demands to the board via e-mail and threatened legal action.
The demands included letting Spencer May play on the girls team, and notifying the 12 other boys that they would be allowed to join a girls team if they wanted.
State law cited
Not allowing opportunities for the boys not only goes against the club’s own bylaws but also against a new state law that expands Title IX and took effect on Jan. 1, Andrew May said.
“The club does not discriminate against any child who wants to play soccer,” Reidel wrote in the e-mail.
“The club opened its enrollment to boys and girls, and did not prohibit any age-qualified children from enrolling because of their gender.
“This is not about a boy being prohibited from playing soccer. It is about not enough older boys signing up to play soccer.”
Sports Editor Brad LaBrie can be reached at 360-417-3525 or at [email protected]