Cortland high school senior wants to play on girls' field hockey team

Cortland senior Sam Forrester practices with the Cortland High School Girls' Field Hockey Team (Photo by Hannah Bistocchi/Cortland Voice)

CORTLAND, N.Y. — Sam Forrester, a senior at Cortland High School, has enjoyed playing field hockey since his sister taught him how to play in their backyard years ago.

A former cross country runner, Forrester said he was looking to get involved in a different sport during the fall 2016 sports season. His passion for field hockey seemed to be the answer to all his reservations about running another season of cross country.

“In ninth grade I ran cross country, and I did not enjoy it. I was looking for a different sport to play and I thought, ‘Hey, I always enjoyed this as a kid, so why not try it?” Forrester said.

Forrester began playing field hockey on the girls’ team his sophomore year of high school, but he was only granted permission to practice.

“We had figured it was going to be a simple process, get the paperwork in, and I could play, but then we got word that I was only going to be allowed to practice and not play in games, so that’s when we sent in the appeal work,” he said.  

Initially, Forrester and his parents filed an appeal and that got sent to the Mixed Competition Committee, where it was denied. Then, the appeal got sent to Section Three Athletics, where it was also denied. The final step is appealing to the state.

Family and Team Support

“When my son approached me and said he wanted to play field hockey on the girls team, I said, ‘Let’s go figure out how that can happen.’ I didn’t have any reservations, I didn’t think it would be this hard, and I didn’t think we’d meet this much resistance,” said Grace Ann Forrester, Sam’s mother and Cortland Field Hockey supporting coaching staff.

“The hardest part about the appeal process has been that, the coach, the players, the athletic director, and Superintendent Hoose, have all been supportive. They’ve all asked how we can help Sam in this fight,” she said.

The school has presented objective data: each year, the coach has has submitted skills scores and physical agility tests scores. Forrester has scored in the medium range in all of those categories.

“If there were girls on the team who felt intimidated, it would have been an issue from the start, but it’s been nothing but an open forum between parents and the school and the team, and everyone said that they didn’t care if Sam played. I still have parents asking me why Sam can’t play.”

Forrester’s teammate, senior midfielder Larkin Schumacher, supports his efforts to play for the team.

“I don’t think it’s any different than a girl wanting to play field hockey. He should be able to play,” Schumacher said. “We’re all really close knit, we even went up to the section meeting to support him. We weren’t allowed to speak, but we just went up to show that we fully support him.”

The Forrester family is waiting to hear back from New York State on scheduling a meeting to begin the appeal process.