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Pregnancy, volleyball and a teen-aged girl

The high-school volleyball season may be over in Fort Worth, Texas, but a controversy swirling around the sport there continues.

According to news reports, Mackenzie McCollum, a 17-year-old star player, was barred from playing when her coaches and school administrators learned she was pregnant. They wanted a letter from her doctor saying it was safe for her to play; apparently the first such letter she supplied would have required efforts to ensure her safety, such as monitoring her heart rate, that the school felt it couldn't accommodate. A second letter with no such restrictions arrived in time to get her back on the court, but McCollum says her playing time was curtailed.

McCollum reportedly has filed a federal claim saying the school's actions violate Title IX, a law that prohibits gender discrimination in educational activities that receive federal funds. McCollum, a senior, claims that her weeks of missed play may have hurt her chances to obtain a college volleyball scholarship.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology encourages women to exercise and participate in sports while pregnant (though it cautions against engaging in activities in which falling down is likely), and many female athletes have kept competing until their babies arrive.

But what would happen if the school had allowed McCollum to play and her baby had somehow been injured? If the young woman's willing to bring legal action in the current situation, is it much of a stretch to think she'd be inclined to do so in that instance?

This is surely not the last time this scenario will play out in an American high school. (It is playing out in the TV show Glee, in which a cheerleader is cut from the squad when her coach learns she's pregnant. That cheerleader's too busy singing and sorting out boyfriends to worry about Title IX.)

What do you think? Should McCollum have been allowed to keep playing? Or did the school do right in requiring a doctor's clearance first and then restricting her court time? Take today's poll, please!

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  December 21, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  General Health , Teens , Women's Health  
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Interestingly while I agree with not allowing a pregnant girl/woman to participate in any contact sports including the cheerleading, the issue goes deeper. Prior to my retirement from the VA where I did therapy with vets having the diagnosis of PTSD, there was an OIF/OEF vet with one tour of combat in Iraq under her belt as an MP. After returning home and still in the NG she became pregnant and while in her fourth or fifth month of pregancy received orders to Afghanistan as the need for MP's there was great. Her Army review board denied her appeal based on her pregancy and thus unfit for duty in the combat zone and she was soon on her way to Afghanistan after a brief training period. Psychologically this was wrong as she had been sexually abused by her CO while on her first tour and thus had the diagnosis of PTSD but the Army overrulled all of the VA requests for waiver and still sent her back.

Posted by: davidmswyahoocom | December 21, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Get real. This is not gender discrimination -- other females were allowed to play/compete -- just not this teen who is pregnant. Why do women/girls who get pregnant think they should have special treatment and yet, then be allowed to do whatever they want with others taking on the burden of their (bad) decisions? The situation creates all kinds of liability for not just the school, but also the other players -- what if one of them knocks into her and she falls and the teen/baby is injured? You know, if this girl really wanted to compete and get a college scholarship, then she should have 1) said no; 2) used reliable birth control; and/or 3) if the birth control failed, had an abortion. I am sick of teen girls having babies, period. I am a female, liberal, and apparently one of the very few people who knows how to and uses birth control.

Posted by: MonkeyLove1 | December 21, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

A few points:

1) Jennifer, you hit the nail on the head. The school was in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation. In volleyball, people DIVE all the time, putting intense pressure directly on the uterus. Imagine if they had let her play and she had miscarried. Another lawsuit for the school (though, in general, I believe that if people want to do stupid risky things to themselves, they lose their right to sue others for "letting" them do said stupid risky things).

2. Stupid girl (part I). If she really wanted a scholarship, maybe she should have taken care NOT to get pregnant in the first place.

3. Stupid girl (part II). How many college volleyball coaches really want to spend their valuable scholarship money on a girl who is pregnant in her senior year of high school? Yeah, just what they want on their college team: a mom of a newborn. I'm sure that would work really well (heavy sarcasm). So, does this girl really believe she could have ever gotten a scholarship if she had been allowed to play?

4. You can't sue a school for gender discrimination based on pregnancy. Men and women ARE different and pregnancy is one of the key differences. If you want to sue someone, sue God or sue evolution. We, as a society, would do well to acknowledge that there are some fundamental differences between men and women and pregnancy is, for better or worse, one of them. Being able to become pregnant is NOT the fault of the school. Really, this should be Stupid Girl -- Part III.

Posted by: rlalumiere | December 21, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Pregnant Moms who participate in exercise classes usually have to produce a doctor's note and sign a waiver in case they're hurt. If she did that I don't see why she shouldn't be eligible to play.

I could not blame a coach if they hesitated to put a pregnant player in a heated game.

Posted by: RedBird27 | December 21, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Pandering to stupidity.

Posted by: whocares666 | December 21, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

17 and dumb as a bag of hammers. Only an id10t would cry discrimination when the fact she's pregnant is the reason they limited her play. A typical LIB T@RD who feels she DESERVES where as any normal person would put the welfare of the child first. Mackenzie should really get her priorities straight. On a side note. If she failed to put the child first and continued playing sports which lead to a miscarriage would she be charged with murder???? Maybe she should consider all possibilities. But then again being pregnant at 17 shows she doesn’t really think.

Posted by: askgees | December 21, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

@MonkeyLove1: I agree completely with you that it's simply the result of a girl having to live with the results of her poor choices...*if* male athletes who get someone pregnant also aren't allowed to play.

For some reason I don't think that happens very often, if at all.

Posted by: dfbdfb | December 21, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

@askgees: Interesting that you assume that she's a "LIB T@RD", as you so charmingly phrase it. As far as I can tell, though, self-centeredness is found at all points on the political spectrum, liberal and conservative and everything else alike.

Posted by: dfbdfb | December 21, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

"McCollum, a senior, claims that her weeks of missed play may have hurt her chances to obtain a college volleyball scholarship."

Um, sorry, no, dear; getting knocked up may have hurt your chances of the scholarship.

But please, don't blame the school for:

A: keeping you out b/c of the Dr's note, and then

B: letting you back on once the Dr's note was modified.

I must be confused, because all I see here is a school protecting itself from a lawsuit should you be injured.

MonkeyLove is right, and it may be harsh, but it's reality.

Posted by: nagatuki | December 21, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

The school should ask the girl, her parents AND the father to sign a waiver agreeing it is not liable should the young woman or her baby get injured as a result of her playing. And then she should be allowed to play. Once the father is identified, hopefully everyone will have the same attitude toward him -- irresponsible etc -- as they do toward the girl. He is equally so.

Posted by: VirginiaReader1 | December 21, 2009 8:26 PM | Report abuse

I see no reason for a woman to be denied precipitin in a sport of jumping when they have demonstrated a tilent of humping.

Posted by: OldCoot1 | December 21, 2009 8:29 PM | Report abuse

Pregnant teens shouls not be a liability to the taxpayers.Show me a single mom and I'll show you a parasite draining the system. Single moms somehow feel they can breed all they want and our (sick) society rewards them for their sick behavior with programs such as WIC,foodstamps,Medicaid,etc.More idiots and cannon fodder bred for the army and minimum wage jobs. Single moms somehow have the narcissistic assumption that one is "entitled" to "the experience" of childbearing.

Posted by: jellyhouse56 | December 21, 2009 9:12 PM | Report abuse

The article could have elaborated more on what happens to girls' education when they become pregnant (aside from whether they participate in sports). In my suburban NY school district, administrators ease the girl out of the school under the guise of "we don't want to endanger her or the baby." The district turns it into a liability issue. I'm not referring to student athletes, but to girls who are simply pregnant students. When I read about pregnant high school girls, I wonder whether we can talk about them as people rather than "bad girls" or "stupid girls," or some other derogatory term. While I'm not sure whether or not the subject of this article should continue in volleyball, I think the opportunity has arisen to talk about how girls are treated. And, as for a volleyball scholarship, only a tiny percentage of high school athletes are awarded scholarships at all, and most of them are partial scholarships that cover a small percentage of the tuition and fees.

Posted by: readerny | December 21, 2009 10:03 PM | Report abuse

Simply put, if she was worried about getting a volleyball scholarship to college, she shouldn't have gotten herself pregnant. It's like the pregnancy just fell out of the sky...she was being stupid, and frankly, I hope she losses the suit because Title IX protects the players from something they can't change...being women.

Posted by: akchild | December 22, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

I play in competitive (A level) adult volleyball leagues and we run into similar issues – female players get pregnant and then have to decide how long they will keep playing. Most women are really sensible about it, and quit playing pretty early in their pregnancy….and then come back after the baby is born (husbands watch the kiddo . It generally works out just fine.

From a coaching perspective, one issue is that having a pregnant girl on the team tends to really impede the rest of the team’s play – my experience is that everyone else tends to play a lot more gingerly around someone who is visibly pregnant, since you want to make sure that you don’t end up bowling her over. Also, it messes up team timing – the pregnant woman might be able to get to and dig a certain ball at 3 months, but at 4 ½ or 5 months she’s going to just be too slow to get to it….but her teammates are used to her being able to make that play, so they don’t cover for her……

As for the pregnant high-schooler in question saying that she was such a good player that she didn’t have to dive for balls, did she watch the NCAA women’s championship game? Those (really tall) girls were hitting the floor the entire game! This is how you play high level volleyball, sweetie….even without the baby, I don’t think that this girl had a shot at a scholarship.

Posted by: lizbeth1 | December 23, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

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