Megan Garth didn’t mean to stir up a huge gender controversy in scholastic football. After all, with growing concerns about the risk of head trauma and her own budding soccer career, that’s the last thing she or the sport needs.
Yet here we are, with a Georgia football team unable to use its best kicker because of rather antiquated notions of what is appropriate.
As noted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Georgia High School Football Daily, Garth took her try at placekicking this summer. The trial made sense; an all-area soccer player, she led Prince Avenue with 25 goals in the 2016-17 school year. She’s expected to be the team’s talisman as a senior. After brief training as a placekicker over the summer, Garth was consistently connecting on extra points and field goals of 30 yards in personal training sessions.
Then the school stepped in and rejected Garth’s attempt to be a part of the team. The school’s headmaster, Col. Seth Hathaway, provided a statement to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in which he set out the reasons for its decision, leaning on Prince Avenue’s commitment to uphold a perceived “conservative temperament of the school.”
“While the school recognizes the changing roles of girls in organized sports, its covenantal partnership does not support the belief that mixed athletic contact sports should traverse a spectrum from high school varsity all the way down to second grade,” Hathaway’s statement read.
The situation surrounding Prince Avenue is not unique — other Christian-based schools in Georgia have also banned female students from competing alongside male counterparts — but it has lit a spark beneath some of her cohorts. Prince Avenue students have reportedly circulated petitions, including one that garnered more than 300 signatures.
For a school of fewer than 1,000 students occupying preschool through 12th grade, that’s no small feat.
Yet even significant student support doesn’t appear as if it will change Garth’s fortunes, and her family is apparently OK with that. Garth’s father, Branham Garth, said he was disappointed and disagreed with the decision, but that they respect and “love” the school and were content with the discussion and deliberation Garth’s unusual circumstance caused.
Still, the fact that some 49 girls competed in football for other Georgia schools in 2016 highlights the disadvantage Prince Avenue Christian is forcing on itself, particularly with one of Garth’s potential peers as a female kicker earning all-region honors for the 2016 season.
The debate will likely recede as both parties put the disagreement behind them. At least until Prince Avenue needs a 30-yard field goal to win a game. There’s little question they’d consider their own decision at least temporarily unfortunate then.