Last night was our senior night for the Penn Hills Girls Volleyball Team. There were over 200 people in attendance. Between games two and three there was a serving game open to the public to win prizes. I turned and look and saw something amazing. Joy. There were kids and adults, from both schools, laughing and playing. Kids from Penn Hills, kids from Penn Trafford, and adults from both communities trying to serve volleyballs to hit and win prizes. I noticed an African American division 1 football recruit from Penn Hills right next to a Caucasian kid from Penn Trafford, both laughing hysterically. It was America, it was sports, it was fun.
We won’t be experiencing that tonight.
The Penn Hills Girls Volleyball Team will not be traveling to Connellsville to play volleyball in a make up game scheduled for this evening, and here’s why. It won’t be about fun, sports, or even America for that matter. It’s about racism, intimidation, and lack of respect. I’m not supporting those things.
Rather, we are choosing to love and support our athletes. The WPIAL and Connellsville school districts have taken what was to be a simple volleyball match between two schools that have little to do with each other and made it a bad thing. To you two organizations I have this to say…
To the WPIAL, your statement on sportsmanship states in #3 “Treat all visitors with respect. Take appropriate measures to discourage taunting, trash-talking, vulgar language and disrespect directed toward opponents and contest officials. In advance, advise your students that disrespectful behavior will not be tolerated at games.” Beyond what happened at our boys soccer match I have heard from a coach that the fans at Connellsville are rude and do not display sportsmanship at all. Their spouse won’t even travel to those games. Further, #10 states, “Remind all concerned that the WPIAL will use every means available to legislate against those who disrupt the efforts to conduct athletic contests in a safe and positive environment.” Connellsville did not follow #3 (to your own admission) and you have not followed #10. You have stated in your (dismissive if not condescending) letter that there was “no evidence of cultural insensitivity.” I wonder if those that run the sensitivity training that you mandated Connellsville to undergo would agree.
To Connellville, you said that you were just protecting your students. Beyond the obvious, “FROM WHAT?” question, explain to me how after you brought guards to our girls soccer game (ok, it was the first contest after the WPIAL hearings), and then you brought them to the boys soccer game that was closed to the public (ok, it was the same teams involved as the original conflict) and NOTHING happened at either, why did you still bring guards to the girls volleyball match last week? You did not take guards to the Latrobe or Penn Trafford volleyball matches. You didn’t even bring guards to your match at Woodland Hills which has a very similar demographic as Penn Hills. Did you really believe there was a threat? Perhaps were you sending a message? Were you trying to make a point? Your laughing and smirking, and videotaping of our fans (concerned moms, mind you) tells me that you were. Now, you want a cookie for sending the armed guard home? Message received, loud and clear.
MOST IMPORTANTLY to our girls. You are loved and you are supported. Some of you wanted to go tonight and win. Others though, were just too angry and/or uncomfortable to be in that environment. Other yet have experienced this (along with their families) too many times in their life. They have had it fall on deaf ears time and again. Not this time, not in this community. Here you are loved. Here you are supported.
Will this end racism? No. Will this change bureaucratic oversight organizations and their litigious minded method of management? No. Will these girls from Penn Hills remember that one team, one school, one community had their backs and said that this just wasn’t right? I sure hope so.