DIGGING DEEPER: High school athlete argues for equal opportunity - WBNG.com: Binghamton-area News, Weather, Sports

DIGGING DEEPER: High school athlete argues for equal opportunity

WALTON, N.Y. (WBNG) -- A local high school athlete is in a battle with his school's administration for not allowing him to play the sport of his choosing. 

Hunter Bosket, 15, is a sophomore at Walton Central School. For the past two years, he and his family have been pleading with the school's administration to allow him to play on the all girls varsity field hockey team. 

Bosket is trying to become what New York State calls a mixed competition athlete. In this case, meaning a boy playing on a girls team. A panel made up of the school's physician, athletic director and superintendent test the athlete's abilities and maturity. The panel must also consider the competitive balance with opponents and safety of other athletes. 
     
Hunter's mother, Kirsten, says this earlier this fall all but one person on the panel approved her son to play. 

"That panel this year said 'ok'. What they are supposed to look at is safety and if he can play at a varsity level," she said. "Within a week we got a letter from the superintendent saying no."
     
In the letter, Walton Superintendent Roger Clough said if Hunter were to play, he would take playing time away from the girls on the team. He also noted Hunter's speed and endurance posed safety concerns. According to Clough, in 2015 no boys in Section IV played girls field hockey. That factored into his decision as well, he said.

"It is stupid how I know all the girls on the team and play against them, I get hurt more than I hurt girls," Hunter said. 

WBNG reached out to Clough and the Walton School District several times for comment over the phone and in person at the school. Clough and the district did not return any of the phone calls and each time we went to the school, he was unavailable to speak. 

Hunter plays field hockey because it's one of the only sports his doctor allows him to play after a near-death experience at age 11.

"I was outside after coming home from the babysitter's just riding my bike and I heard a car coming and I was already in the road -- so I was on the very shoulder of the road and then I woke up in a hospital and was told I got hit by a car," he explained.
    
Hunter fractured his skull and had injuries to his leg. After the accident, his doctor told him if it weren't for the helmet he was wearing he would have died. Since then, Hunter's doctor has recommended Bosket boycott football and soccer.
     
For the past three summers, he has played field hockey against girls in summer league -- traveling to Deposit and sometimes Vestal.

It turns out, Hunter's love for the sport and experience are actually hurting his chances of ever playing.

"If he is athletic plus he's played field hockey, you are going to stick out," said David Garbarino, Chairman of the Section IV Mixed Competition Committee. "It looks like you would have an advantage over everybody else. So you are going to allow your team to win games or be competitive because you have played longer."

Section IV handles all appeals for mixed competition. For example, if a boy were granted the opportunity to play on an all girls team, school districts who play against them would have the opportunity to appeal and stop the boy from playing. Garbarino and other members of Section IV would then hold a hearing where both schools would present evidence including video of the athlete playing and their athletic measurables. 

The Bosket family has taken legal action against Walton,citing discrimination. The family's appeal with the State Administrator of Education will likely not be heard until after the 2016 high school field hockey season is over. 

While the Boskets go through legal battles, another boy is breaking barriers just half an hour away. 
     
Standing tall by the goal for the Hancock Wildcats is Senior Bailey Vanloan -- the first boy to ever play field hockey at the school.  

Vanloan wanted to play a fall sport but isn't a fan of two sports the school offers for this season, golf or football.  
     
After playing field hockey for the first time over the summer, Vanloan decided to try and play for the school. 

"I thought about it for a good four months and after thinking about it I honestly didn't think I was going to do it the first couple months but then my friends started talking me more into it," he said.
    
Bailey learned the game by watching YouTube Videos.The school's mixed competition committee chose to give him a chance to play, partially to help enhance his high school education. 

"He hasn't had a lot of athletic experiences so that is something we take into account when we are reviewing a mixed competition application," said Hancock Athletic Director Brand Olbrys.  
     
But the decision has stirred some controversy in the community. 

"Women want to be equal with men but it has to be the same across the board," said Kim Makowski, Field Hockey coach for Hancock. "So, I have heard a lot of grief about it but you just try to explain it the best you can and say 'come and see him play.'"
     
Comparing the two boys, Bailey stands taller, runs faster and weighs more than Hunter. The two played against one another this summer. Hunter plays for Deposit's summer league team. 

"I don't think he is a more high aggressive factor than other girls especially playing against him," said Vanloan. 
     
To be given the same opportunity as Bailey, Hunter says he's willing to do just about anything. 

"Limit me to a time limit or maybe not start or put me in a position I'm not used to or tie a chain to my ankle and say you can only go here," he said.

Hunter is primarily an offensive player, whereas Bailey plays defense. Hunter says he is often times triple-covered when he plays in the summer, but says that is a reflection of his gender rather than his skill set. 

Including Bailey Vanloan, there are currently 13 mixed competition athletes in Section IV for the 2016-2017 athletic year. According to Garbarino, the majority of them are female football players or male cheerleaders. 

This debate expands farther than Section IV. 

In Section 3, which primarily runs through the Central New York area, has recently banned Ike Wood, a 12-year-old, 90-pound boy, from the Fayetteville-Manlius JV field hockey team. The F.M. school district said Wood's stick skills and athletic ability posed a safety concern for other athletes. According to his mother Carrie, Wood began playing field hockey several years ago when their family lived in the Maine-Endwell School District. 

Along with taking legal action, the Bosket family has considered moving out of the Walton district so Hunter can have a better chance of playing field hockey. 

Photos of Hunter Bosket playing field hockey used in this story were taken by Sam Ogozalek of The Hancock Herald.

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