To all the girls on the Pleasant Valley field hockey team, their teammate Johnny Schmid is just one of the "guys."
"It's his first year on our team," says PV coach Jessica Frantz, "and he has helped us have a successful season so far without being an issue whatsoever."
"My real love is playing ice hockey," says Schmid, who is the first boy to play for the Bears' girls' team since 2006, "so I look at field hockey as a great alternative when I'm not on skates."
Schmid's decision to ask Frantz if he could come out for the team was not something he dwelled over for any length of time. He is friends with some of the players, and one in particular, fellow junior Jen Kratz, invited him to come out for the team.
In fact, he did not tell his parents of his decision to play until he asked them to come to a practice where they saw him on the field. He says they are "cool" with the idea. Schmid has impressed his coach enough to earn a starting position and he has contributed five goals toward the Bears' current 7-2 record.
"Playing with and against girls was pretty weird at first, and though I think I am fast on the field, many of the girls are better at controlling the ball with their sticks than I am," he says.
Although boys playing field hockey is not as rare as one might think, there is ongoing opposition. Earlier this month, a judge in a state court ruled that the PIAA, if it so chooses, can ban boys from playing girls' sports. This decision is a minor victory for certain parent groups who claim that boys can be more athletic than girls and can dominate the sport. That was proven three years ago when a German male exchange student led his team to a PIAA field hockey state championship. The PIAA has put the issue of banning boys on top of its October agenda.
"I believe that if Johnny wants to experience the game, he should be allowed," says Lehighton coach Lamar Long, who himself played field hockey for William Allen and then went on to play two years for the junior national team. "I am not in favor of playing boys who are exchange students from countries where there are all-boys' field hockey teams, but my team played against Schmid and even though he has excellent athletic ability, he is still learning the game so many of the girls had an advantage over him. He reminds me of me when I played in high school."
Long also offers this advice to the PIAA. "I hope they don't ban boys, but if they do, then I hope players like Johnny get grandfathered so they can keep playing."
Though Schmidt says he is not making a statement about boys playing girls' sports, he recently completed a school project about Title IX, which contains a federal ruling that permits girls to participate on boys' teams if the school does not offer a viable alternative. So Schmid realizes that his field hockey participation reciprocates this ruling.
"I am also aware of what consequences I may face," he says. "If fans ever boo me I feel that's just part of any sporting event and I won't take it personally." He adds, "I also think that a game official might think I play too physical. In our first game against Nazareth, I was given a yellow card when I got to the ball the same time their player did and we bumped bodies. Again, I realize that it's just part of what I should expect."
Bears' assistant coach James Shay, who played field hockey for three years at Stroudsburg High School, knows what Schmid is up against.
"When I played, I was booed and made fun of, but that just motivated me more", says Shay. "And most people don't know that only in America is field hockey strictly a girls' game. In fact I am currently the only American-born player in a New York men's field hockey league. So for Johnny, I am happy that our district allows him to play."
"Johnny is all about team and not about Johnny," says Frantz. "We gave him the option to put on the skirt our team wears or we would all switch to shorts to accommodate him. He chose the skirt."
"I don't want to make any waves. I just want our team to win the league title," says Schmid. "The girls are very good players and that motivates me to play the best that I can to help them win."
KING COLE - Northwestern golfer Cole Miller continued adding to his already impressive resume this week by winning his third straight Colonial League individual golf championship on Wednesday afternoon at Bethlehem Municipal Golf Course. Miller fired an even-par 71 for a two shot win over Wilson's Colin Hagenbuch (73). Miller and his Tigers (13-2) have already qualified for the District 11 Class AA Team Championships to be held on October 7 at Blude Ridge Country Club. The Northwestern junior finished the regular season at 58 under par through 15 rounds.
PV NETS CHAMPIONSHIP - The Pleasant Valley girls tennis team captured the Mountain Valley Conference team tennis championship last Thursday by scoring 23 points, three points better than both East Stroudsburg South (20) and Stroudsburg (20). Two Pleasant Valley doubles teams won their respective divisions. At #2 doubles, the team of Sarina Tufane and Paula Mieles recorded an 8-6 win over Pocono Mountain East's Megan Gallagher and Amanda Anglemeyer, while at #3 doubles, Andrea Nale and Emily Borger posted an 8-1 decision over East Stroudsburg South's Amanda Jackson and Janet Ro.
CONDLY GETS INVITATION(AL) - Jim Thorpe's Jonathan Condly has not only led the Jim Thorpe boys cross country team to a perfect 4-0 Schuylkill League record, but he's also been leaving his mark on the local invitational scene. On Saturday, Condley paced the Olympians to the team championship of the Pine Grove Cardinal Classic by finishing with a first-place time of 17:29. The victory was Condly's third Invitational victory this month, as he also won 5K races in Tamaqua (the Chris and Kevin Truskey Memorial Run) and Schuylkill Haven.
SETTING MILESTONES - Marian junior setter Abby O'Donnell topped 2,000 career assists in last Tuesday's volleyball match with Halifax. As of last week, O'Donnell has compiled 2,081 assists, which ranks her second in school history behind Kayla Poluka's (2002-2005) school record of 3,783 career assists. The Fillies' setter tallied 880 assists her freshman year, 901 assists her sophomore year, and currently sits at 300 assists for this season. Only five girls have ever tallied over 1,000 career assists at Marian. Behind Poluka and O'Donnell are Catherine Robbins (2,003), Rachel Krajcirik (1,875) and Amber Schmerfeld (1,765).
CAT IN THE HAT(TRICK) - The Jim Thorpe girls soccer team has had quite the week. Heading into Monday night's game against Pine Grove, the Lady Olympians had posted consecutive shutouts over North Schuylkill, Columbia Montour Vo-Tech, and Weatherly by a combined score of 19-0. Leading the offensive charge was Cat Condly who had eight of her team's goals in that three-game stretch. In a 10-0 victory over CMVT, Condly tallied four goals, and followed that up with four second-half goals in a 12-minute span against Weatherly. Condly has 12 goals and six assists on the season. Also in the game against Weatherly, teammate Tayler Kidder scored four goals of her own.
ANOTHER SHUTOUT FOR SMITH - Condly isn't the only one putting up impressive numbers for the Jim Thorpe girls soccer team. Led by the speed and agressiveness of Amber Carroll and Autumn Cope, the Lady Olympians defense has only allowed 12 goals in nine games this season. Goal Keeper Alyssa Smith has posted three straight shutouts and has held opponents off the scoreboard five times this season. Smith has a 0.841 save percentage on the season. Ironically, all five of Jim Thorpe's wins (5-4) have come via a Smith shutout.
AND THEN THERE WAS ONE - With the exception of cross country, the Pleasant Valley boys soccer team is the only remaining undefeated team in the TIMES NEWS coverage area. With a 2-1 victory over Stroudsburg on Saturday, the Bears improved their overall record to 9-0. Two former undefeated teams lost their first matches this past week. The Northwestern girls soccer team fell to 8-1-1 with a weekend loss to Parkland, while the Panther Valley volleyball team (6-1) dropped its first match of the season to undefeated Pottsville. The Northwestern boys soccer team (8-1-2), the Pleasant Valley girls soccer team (9-1), the Pleasant Valley volleyball team (8-1) and the Marian volleyball team (7-1) all remain with one loss apiece.