Matthew Bozdech is crazy about field hockey. So the Eureka freshman was hoping to get a chance to play for his high school team this fall.
But the Rockwood School District will not allow Bozdech, a Gateway Field Hockey Club player since he was 7, to try out for Eureka’s all-girl squad.
Rockwood chief communications officer Kim Cranston said the district offers 11 sports for boys and 11 for girls. Since field hockey is considered an emerging sport with the Missouri State High School Activities Association, it is up to the district whether it follows MSHSAA guidelines. Cranston said the district chooses to do so.
Bylaw 3.20 in the MSHSAA handbook states that “boys may not participate on a girls interscholastic athletic team if the school’s overall boys athletic program equals or exceeds the overall girls athletic program.”
In following MSHSAA guidelines, for Bozdech to be able to play Eureka would have to ask the association for an exemption for Bozdech, which it is unwilling to do.
“I could understand if we were putting a 250-pound senior linebacker on the Lafayette state championship field hockey team,” said Paul Bozdech, Matthew’s father. “But that’s not the case.”
Bozdech, who is 5-foot-1 and 110 pounds, is smaller than most of the girls on the squad. Bozdech’s father said his son is a skilled player whose presence could be a benefit to the team.
But the issue is larger than that. Some in the field hockey community believe that the precedent in allowing a boy to play will alter the dynamics of the sport.
“I might be in the minority on that, but I don’t think he should play,” Ladue coach Barb Dwyer said. “I referee out at Gateway and have met him. I want to see field hockey stay a women’s sport at the high school level.”
The elder Bozdech said he had alerted school officials about the situation three and a half years ago, before Eureka had a field hockey team. Eureka competed in varsity field hockey for the first time last season.
Eureka athletics director Jason Green said he told Bozdech back then that he seriously doubted whether his son would be allowed to tryout.
Bozdech said he went to last week’s first practice with his son to see if Wildcats coach Katie Schulze would consider letting Matthew practice with the team or possibly serve as one of the team’s managers.
Bozdech said Schulze told him she already had managers for the team in place and did not need his son’s services.
“The district is not willing to examine the issue and try something new.” Bozdech said. “I don’t know why they won’t at least ask the opinion of some of the area experts. I’ve talked to some area coaches who said they wouldn’t mind if their girls played against Matt.”
One of those coaches is Kelly Yates, former Lafayette field hockey coach, who runs the Gateway Field Hockey Club. Yates said she feels bad for Bozdech.
“We had boys as managers all the time,” Yates said. “Field hockey is the second largest sport in the world right now next to soccer, and there is a huge push for it. I’d like to see him be able to play there.”
Bozdech, 14, just wants to be involved with the team. He said several girls he plays field hockey with at Gateway are on the Eureka squad or other area high school teams.
“It’s a fun sport to play,” Matthew said. “I like ice hockey, too. But obviously I’m not that big, and ice hockey is a much more aggressive sport. I like the skill involved in field hockey.”