THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Boys may be facing field hockey limits

By Bob Holmes
Globe Staff / April 28, 2011

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FRANKLIN — The MIAA Field Hockey Committee voted, 12-0, yesterday in favor of a rule change that will limit the role of boys in a girls’ sport.

Saying, “I’m sick of boys dominating the game,’’ Gloucester field hockey coach and athletic director Kim Patience was one of many committee voices in support of limiting what boys may do in the sport. The three-part rule, which could go into effect this fall if adopted by the Board of Directors at its June 9 meeting, says:

■No boy is allowed to play inside the striking circle (the 16-yard semi-circle around each goal).

■Mixed-gender teams may play no more than two boys at a time.

■During tournament games of mixed-gender teams vs. girls’ teams, a mixed-gender team may play no more than one boy in seven-on-seven overtime periods.

The new rule would prohibit boys from playing goal, and would address what happened in the tournament last fall when Newton North beat North Andover in double overtime with four of its seven players being boys.

“This is a major safety issue for the girls,’’ said Walpole field hockey coach Marianne Murphy.

While the vote was unanimous, the threat of legal action remains. MIAA assistant director Sherry Bryant suggested splitting up the three aspects of the rule so that if there was a legal challenge, parts of it might survive.

“It’s likely that it would be challenged,’’ said Bryant.

But Murphy and Hopkinton coach Joan Bannon were against splitting up the rule, and the committee agreed.

The state’s Equal Rights Amendment is the reason the courts have blocked past MIAA efforts to keep boys from playing. But this change allows boys to play while restricting where they can go on the field.

The committee also voted against changing the format for the state semifinals. The current setup has the North playing the South and Central playing West. A proposal to rotate semifinal opponents was voted down, 11-1.

Bob Holmes can be reached at rholmes@globe.com.