Co-ed football coming to Catholic Youth Organization

March 15, 2013 5:21:35 AM PDT
The archbishop of Philadelphia says he'll allow the region's Catholic youth sports league to field co-ed football teams.

The decision announced Thursday comes in response to a request from an 11-year-old girl.

Pla fought the Philadelphia Archdiocese for her right to play youth football and won

"I was just really excited because I get to be able to play and other girls get to be able to play and it's not just a rule anymore that we can't do what we want to do," Caroline said.

Caroline's mother received an email from Archbishop Charles Chaput and the Archdiocese this afternoon.

She promised the bishop she would keep the wording of the email confidential, but the bottom line is the girls can play.

"I'm proud of her, but I think more in awe of her because of her strength, determination; she never let up," Seal Pla said.

Caroline has been playing football since she was five.

But in December league officials told her the archdiocese was enforcing its boys-only policy for safety reasons.

She says she tried to talk to diocesan officials, but got nowhere.

She turned to the media, but then received a scolding email from Chaput himself who said public pressure would not affect his decision making.

Still she wasn't deterred and the bishop said he would reconsider the rule.

"He told us he was going to be fair and that he was going to look at all the variables and he was a man of his word. He actually did that. We are very excited about the outcome," Seal said.

"I just want to say thank you because he did change the rule. He is the reason girls and I can play football now. So I just want to say thank you," Caroline said.

In a statement, the archdiocese said Chaput considered many factors in making his decision, including the recommendation of an archdiocesan panel of coaches, parents, pastors and experts in sports medicine and pediatrics.

While that panel recommended not changing the policy, Archdiocese Communications Director Kenneth Gavin said the archbishop weighed many other factors, "including feedback from sources both critical and supportive; the expectations of parents, coaches, and pastors; common current practice, legal circumstances and the CYO policies of dioceses around the country. Everything factored into the final decision."


The Associated Press contributed to this article.