Male field hockey opponent confuses Wilson players


Kay Arnsberger

Ethan Leifman

It’s rare for your field hockey team to win in a shootout. It’s even rarer when a member of the opposing team is a boy. Jaap Leeggangers, a male foreign-exchange student from the Netherlands, is a member of the Walls field hockey team. This caused many to ask whether he was actually allowed to play.

Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 states that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” In short, Title IX ensures that gender equality is enforced for in-school athletic activities.

However, Title IX is rather ambiguous when it comes to rules about boys participating in girls sports. The DCIAA rules state that “A school may not permit a boy to participate in a girls’ team in any sport if the school’s overall boys’ athletic participation exceeds the girls.” The DCSAA rules state that “If a school sponsors only a girls’ team in a particular sport, boys shall not be permitted to participate on the girls’ team.” Field hockey, being a club sport, gets to determine its own rules on a case-by-case basis, so Leeggangers was allowed to play.

Though the situation perplexed many Wilson students, the story behind his gaining a spot on the team was straightforward. Leeggangers played boys’ field hockey in the Netherlands for nine years before coming to America. “I went to the sports director [at Walls] and asked if there was a field hockey team and his first response was ‘no,’ but then some of the girls were like, ‘it’s a coed team,’” Leeggangers said. He was initially worried about fitting in, but explained that, “the girls are really nice, so I felt really in my place and they really made me part of the team even though I am a boy.”

Leeggangers’ presence elicited confusion from most of the Wilson field hockey team. “I was shocked at first because I had never seen a boy play on one of the field hockey teams we’ve played against until then,” junior Alaia Lee said. Lee also noted that Leeggangers’ presence did not make a big difference in the game, as Wilson ended up winning 2-1.   

“I would say that I was intimidated by him before the game, but more because he was from the Netherlands, which is really good at field hockey, than him being a boy,” senior Kelly Harris said. “I thought it was kind of unfair that he was bigger and stronger than us naturally but at the same time it would be unfair to bar him from joining the team.”

Athletic Director Mitch Gore said that playing Leeggangers was not an issue, and that both coaches discussed him playing prior to the start of the game. “The game was a great way for the girls to [cap] the season,” Gore said. “[Leeggangers’] participation in the game was part of the reason it was memorable.” •