Girl feels dismissal from wrestling team was bias
Girls in wrestling is nothing new. They have been competing in the sport for years now. But coaches are still struggling to pin down the most effective way to integrate them into the sport.
Suzanne Kivi, sophomore and varsity wrestler at Reno High School, said she believes the coach and other wrestlers have accepted her as a wrestler.
However, Trista Harker, sophomore, and Shayleena Olson, freshman, of Dayton High School said they felt they were discriminated against and were kicked off of the wrestling team because they were girls.
“The coach has given them nothing but grief,” said Terri Schlidt, Harker’s mother.
Jeff Tomac, a guidance counselor and Kivi’s coach at Reno High School, said he has coached a girl on his team five out of his six years.
He said it can be difficult to coach a girl if she’s not serious about the sport.
“I’ve had girls in there for all the wrong reasons,” he said. “They just want to be around the boys.”
However, he said that Kivi, who so far is undefeated in conference matches, is a serious wrestler.
“She’s a wrestler and acts like a wrestler,” he said. “She’s not a girl when she’s out there wrestling.”
Harker said she is also serious about the sport.
She began wrestling at 9 years old, while living in Colorado, and wrestled through junior high where she competed on a state level.
Her family moved to Stagecoach when she was in eighth grade and, as a freshman, she decided to take a break and did not join the wrestling team.
This year, she decided to wrestle again but said she was told by the coach that she would need to find a girl to practice with because she could not wrestle against the boys in practice.
Her mother thought that was not appropriate.
“She’s a team member,” Schlidt said. “She should be able to practice with the guys.”
However, Harker recruited her friend, Olson, to join the team to practice with her.
Olson said she was wary at first but grew to enjoy the sport.
“I started to really like it,” Olson said. “I even picked up my grades so I could stay on the team.”
After Christmas break, however, Olson said the coach told her she could no longer be on the team because she had missed too many practices – a reason she thought was invalid.
This month, Harker was also removed from the team for an altercation between two team members who she was dating.
She had received one warning in December to keep her social life away from the team.
Dayton County School District officials said they did not want to discuss individual disciplinary actions against students, but Jim Bennet, Dayton High School wrestling coach, said proper protocol was followed.
“It’s two strikes and you’re out on my team,” he said.
Tomac said he will not tolerate dating among members of the team.
“I have enough to deal with in my room,” he said. “I guarantee you they wouldn’t be dating on my team.”
However, it is not always easy to determine when behavior crosses the line.
Tomac said that on occasion, he has had to discuss with Kivi what behavior is acceptable at the meets.
“She’s lost focus a couple of times,” he said.
Kivi sees it differently.
“Everybody tells me I’m a big flirt,” she said. “I see it as joking around.”
She added that when she wrestles, she does not see her opponent as a boy.
“When I’m sent to a tournament, I’m sent to do a job,” she said. “That job is to wrestle, not check out guys.”
Harker said she also focuses on the sport and not on the boys.
“It is not a sexual thing,” she said.
Harker’s mother said that even if Harker were guilty of crossing the line, so were the two boys and they should have been reprimanded as well.
“That’s not my daughter’s fault that these boys can’t get their heads together,” she said. “When you’ve got a team, you’ve got to control it.”
Aside from the romantic aspect, Tomac said that boys and girls also have fundamental differences in the way they communicate.
He said that as a coach, he is used to shouting orders from the side of the mat and the wrestlers just do as he says.
“When you yell from the edge of the mat, you expect an immediate response,” he said.
However, he said that girls will look back at him to ask questions or to get an explanation.
“They want to discuss it instead of just hear it,” he said.
He said that Kivi is not so much like the other girls.
“She’s as close to being coached like a guy like I’ve ever had,” he said. “I enjoy having her around.”
Harker said that her coach did not coach her from the side of the mat but walked away during her matches.
Despite the obstacles, girls said they enjoy wrestling as a sport.
“Sometimes I stop and ask myself why I do it,” Kivi said. “I don’t know, it’s just part of my life.”