Female middle school tackle football player at center of controversy

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PIKE COUNTY, Mo. – A Louisiana, Missouri family claims their daughter is being discriminated against on a tackle football team because she’s a girl. But the school district says gender has nothing to do with anything.

Emily Hamby is in her first year of football playing on the Louisiana Middle School team. The 12-year-old has positions on the offensive and defensive lines.

But Emily and her family say she’s getting very little playing time because she’s a girl.

“I feel like I’m getting treated differently because I’m a girl,” Emily said. “I never get any playing time and I barely even get to be in the practices.”

Emily and her parents say she has only played two minutes in one of the team’s four games.

“Definitely a gender issue, definitely. I cannot see any reason why not to play that girl,” said Matt Hamby, Emily’s father. “She’s big, she’s strong, she can block.'

Emily also played in what her parents describe as a scrimmage after one of the games.
Her mom, Tiffany, even held up a sign at a game urging the coach to “play the girl.”

“Emily holds her own. It’s been very frustrating,” Tiffany said. “I want them to see her as a player. Not a girl, not a boy – a player.'

Louisiana R-II School District Superintendent Todd Smith says Emily’s playing time has zero to do with her being a girl.

“This is a skill issue, plain and simple. It has nothing to do with the gender,” he said. “We have other players in the same situation who seem to be at the same skill level and are getting the same playing time.”

Smith says Emily has played in two games: two minutes in one game and three minutes in the other.

He also says she played two whole quarters of what he calls a seventh-grade game that was held after one of the middle school games. That’s what Emily's parents called a scrimmage.

“The coach, you know, evaluates based on practice, based on work ethic, based on skills. That’s who plays,” Smith said.

Emily says the coaches tell her to try harder at practice.

Emily says she will continue to try her best.

“I want to keep playing but I hate the way I get treated,” she said.

Emily and her family also allege she has been bullied and, at times, has been left out of practices.

Superintendent Smith denies any of that has happened. He says there have been a handful of female players on the middle and high school teams in past years.

The middle school team’s last game is next week.

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