The girls’ basketball team that did not receive a trophy despite defeating an all-boys’ team in the title game of a Hoover recreational league was not treated unfairly under the league’s rules, their coach said Monday.
Wes Russell coached the fifth-grade girls who won the tournament in the Hoover rec league, where all the other teams were comprised of fifth-grade boys. Russell said in a statement issued by the city of Hoover that the squad were not victims of unfair treatment.
“Social media posts have negatively portrayed the rules and policies of the City of Hoover Parks and Recreation as somehow unfairly treating girls versus boys,” Russell said.
However, in a private ceremony on Monday “received a trophy and commemorative coin” from Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato.
“The team received their trophies in a private ceremony at their request in lieu of attending Monday’s City Council meeting,” a city Facebook post stated.
In his statement, Russell appeared to be referring to a viral Facebook post written last week by Jayme Mashayekh, the mother of one of the girls on the team, who suggested the squad was denied the trophy because of their gender.
“They were told before the championship that they could play in it but if they won they wouldn’t be allowed to have the trophy,” Mashayekh wrote. “Excuse me? What?” What did they do to get disqualified? Did they not pay their dues? Did they not play up a level in competition? Oh, it’s because they’re GIRLS?!?!”
The girls, who according to Mashayekh’s post have been teammates for three years representing Spain Park in a competitive girls’ basketball league, were required to enter the Hoover fifth-grade boys’ rec league if they wanted to keep utilizing Hoover City Schools gyms for their practices.
Russell said the girls understood the requirements, which included not being eligible for the championship trophy if they won the league.
“The City of Hoover has allowed our team to utilize and practice in municipal gyms, just as they have done in my 12+ years of coaching in both the Hoover girls and boys leagues. Our team knew the rules of the Hoover Rec league prior to the tournament, and we still chose to have our team compete in this boys tournament,” he said.
“I have coached boys and girls flag football, and boys and girls basketball all under the umbrella of the City of Hoover leagues. In my 12+ years of coaching, boys and girls have always been given equal treatment.”
The coach suggested other parents of girls on the team did not share Mashayekh’s beliefs on the situation.
“While the optics of this story appear to paint the City of Hoover in a negative light, my personal experience and that of so many other Hoover families tell a different story,” he said. “The Hoover Parks and Rec Dept. has agreed to review the rules related to competitive teams playing in the rec league to clarify the rules and make them fair to all participants going forward.”
The city said its parks and recreation department “for many years” has allowed “elite” teams to participate in tournaments. The teams are not sought out by department, but come to ask to participate. Those teams are selected based on skill and not similar to regular league teams.
Because of this, according to the city, teams must willingly agree to compete above their grade range.
“If an “elite” team participates in an HPRD youth tournament, and makes it to the championship round, the rules state that they cannot receive a trophy as a result of that win,” the statement reads.
Coaches are also made aware of this. “Only the team that is grade-appropriate has ever been eligible to be recognized as the tournament champions,” the city stated.
This has applied to both boys and girls teams, the city stated.
Along with the city’s review of the rules, Hoover also invited the girls to Monday night’s city council meeting to receive recognition.
Russell said the girls appreciated the gesture.