girls soccer

Equality still isn't reliable, even for the best

Benson's principal showcases how easy it is to undervalue girls sports
By Cliff Pfenning, Publisher

When legistlation known as Title IX passed through Congress in 1972, it brought athletics into a new state, one where men and women, boys and girls, were consistently moved toward an equal playing field in terms access and respect. You only have to look at OSAA records to follow the results.

Prior to 1972, girls played for a state title in four sports - swimming, track and field, golf and tennis - all of which remain individual in nature. Team sports didn't exist. Then Title IX hit.

In 1974, the OSAA added girls state title events for cross country and soccer. Basketball added girls tournaments in 1976, and volleyball got its own state tournament in 1977. Softball showed up in 1979.

In the past five decades, the OSAA has done an admirable job of making boys and girls sports equal to the point it offers girls titles in wrestling. It didn't take long for coaches, especially men, to realize they could cram hardcore activities into the routines of their girls athletes and finish a season thinking they had just coached a bunch of boys, only they were girls. The seasons played out the same in terms of how a team achieved success on and off the field, and how it determined success to begin with.

Title IX still gets a headline or two these days, but it's ingrained in society enough that most public schools don't need to have legal action directed at them to see a solution and make it happen. And, yet, even the best of people can overlook the basics of Title IX, and glide right back into the days where boys had both a mile and two-mile state final, while girls just ran a mile.

Take Curtis Wilson, principal at Benson High School - and reigning Oregon High School Principal of the Year, and the girls soccer program, which he lobbied to move to the varsity level this fall, but accepted a decision to leave it at the junior varsity level for another year.

When the decision to hold the team to the junior varsity was made in January, Wilson very easily could have pushed for the move to varsity based simply on equality. Benson has a varsity boys soccer team, and a willing group of experienced girls ready to play at the varsity level, which would put all of the school's sports at that level. That move had Title IX's basics all over it, especially with the program being able to field two teams - thus seperating the top players from among those student/athletes.

But, Wilson went along with PIL athletic director Marshall Haskins' view that those experienced players simply weren't experienced enough based on the schedule they played in fall. Even though more than half the starting line-up might be seniors in fall, the program needed another season of preparation to be ready for Class 6A.

Put another way, looking seven months into the future, Haskins could have basically said all those experienced girls still weren't going to be good enough to be competitive with even the worst of teams at Class 6A. But, they would be good enough in another year after playing a better schedule of JV teams this fall.

When the news got to Benson coach Antoinette Olivas, she saw it as two losses - that the district made the decision it did, and the principal went along with it.

Since then, the team has truly lost a third time in that Wilson has continually sided with Haskins and the importance of winning on the field ahead of the value of students at his school representing that school as the best in their sport regardless of the outcome on a field.

That the girls soccer program has lost a fourth time is not hard to argue considering Wilson's recent experience with basically the same situation, only the sport was football - a sport for boys at the school.

In 2016, Wilson lobbied and got Benson's football team to move to varsity after a year of JV action. But, the team played as an independent meaning it couldn't qualify for the playoffs and mostly played Class 5A teams or those from Vancouver, Wash.

The 2017 season, again playing as an independent team, opened with a huge issue, though, as the program didn't have enough players to field a team when September arrived. Wilson and Haskins held a meeting with coaches and parents to discuss whether to just cancel the season. They figured out there were going to be enough players available, though, just not for the first game. After forfeiting the opener, the Techmen played out their next eight games and actually won two of them.

The season played out with just a varsity team, and did so the past season meaning any student who showed up, regardless of class or experience, qualified for varsity play after nine practices.

Playing at the JV level should give the Benson girls soccer team a much better chance of being competitive or winning in games, but it won't be against the other school's best team. Looking at the football program, Wilson and Haskins deemed varsity play to be important enough for the school to absorb huge losses because the losses were at the top level.

Both Haskins and Wilson will promote they're supportive of the Benson girls soccer program pointing to the two-year plan to move to varsity in 2020. But, it also showcases they've basically just begun to recognize the program as having any importance after three years of JV or JVII play. And that's going four decades backward, something Wilson and Haskins have spent the past four months clinging onto.



Benson Girls Soccer, Title IX cross paths

Wed, 05/29/2019 - 6:55am
Cliff Pfenning
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If you could put a figure on the value of a high school varsity letter, what would that figure be?




When a coach presents a player their letter at the end of a season, and that player and even parents get to thinking what the value of that letter is, could you actually put a dollar amount on that event? Especially, if it were for a student who only played one sport and only got that letter as a senior, having played his/her way up to the varsity team through previous seasons.

You could look back at the cost of all the seasons of youth sports, all the camps, all the gear, travel expenses, maybe even travel expenses for parents and family and calculate a figure.

For most people this is topic for a summer party that might include some head shaking - and back slapping for what that student accomplished - as a student/athlete. They tell tales of the season that was, wins and losses - the playoff run, or the plays made, road trips and coaches ... stories that will last for the rest of their lives.

The stories teams develop, that players and coaches and families develop through a team are what makes athletics a great part of every community. And, that’s at every level from youth through high school, college, professional teams to recreational teams and events.

That varsity letter, though, that’s kind of a specific accomplishment, something that has a time limit on it - the four years of high school.
What if you didn’t have the chance to earn that letter, though? Your school didn’t offer a varsity letter in the sport you played, even though you played for the school for several years. This is basically the case that I’m working on as a parent at Benson High School, which has chosen not to field a varsity team in girls soccer next school year even though my daughter will be playing in her third season within the program.

It’s a unique and very frustrating situation that has me as a parent looking at the value of the Title IX legislation from 1972 and what it might be able to do to motivate the school district to reassess a decision it made to not offer varsity girls soccer at Benson in 2019. It plans to offer varsity girls soccer in 2020, but not 2019 because, well, the girls won’t be good enough for varsity athletics in 2019. But, they will be in 2020.

This story isn’t just about what the value of a varsity letter is, but also how you determine who a varsity athlete.

Benson’s girls soccer team dropped from varsity play in 2014 after several very unsuccessful seasons. It gathered enough players for just one team when my daughter joined in 2017 as a sophomore. With several other sophomores joining, a goal became to play to the varsity level in three seasons - at the recreational level of Junior Varsity II as sophomores, Junior Varsity as juniors, and then Varsity as seniors. It seemed pretty simple and just required the girls to practice and play regularly, find enough players for two teams their junior season, and get the school to make the proper adjustments. Every other sport at Benson offers a varsity team regardless of its results, so girls soccer seemed some energetic players away from moving back to the varsity level.

The progran had enough players for two teams this past fall and the school principal, Curtis Wilson, and athletic director, Scott Archer, lobbied for the move to varsity play earlier this year. Again, it seemed simple enough - three-year plan accomplished ... regardless of the on-field results. Who knows how many, or even if, the team would win a game this fall, but, they’d be doing it at the varsity level, which involves earning a varsity letter. And, that letter, reaching the varsity team, is a key element to getting students to put effort into improving enough to rate better than other students at their school. It’s motivation.

This is where the story takes it’s frustrating turn toward Title IX - the appeal to move to the varsity level got denied by district athletic director Marshall Haskins, who looked at the fall schedule from 2018 saw a majority of games played against JVII teams and said it wasn’t strong enough so the girls wouldn’t be prepared for varsity play in 2019. He convinced Wilson to create a two-year plan so that the team would be ready for varsity play in 2020. The girls just needed to play a stronger schedule in 2019, and they’d be ready. The strength of the schedule was the key to the plan.

So, the Benson girls soccer team wouldn’t be good enough for varsity play this fall, but it would be next fall. Plan created. Decision made. Case closed. The girls, including the handful of juniors who would be seniors and working to earn that varsity letter, got the news of the two-year plan and that was that.

When I got the news, though, I asked my daughter if that varsity letter was something she valued, and she said yes. Contact with the school, district athletic department, even school board and district administration have gotten positive reponses such as deputy superintendant Yvonne Curtis responding this situation should be corected. But without any bargaining strength, nothing happens.

And, that’s where this issue stands. At a standstill. As summer approaches and the window for creating a varsity schedule closes, the district has made a plan of non-action. Without any action, this issue will eventually go away.

Title IX was pretty much created as a bargaining tool for situations like this. Lake Oswego’s softball team sued its school district in 2014 to get better facilities, using the baseball team’s access to better facilities as its core argument. It got better faclities.

In this case, Benson has a varsity boys soccer team, but not one for girls. The boys team ranked 50th out of 51 Class 6A teams in fall, winning just one game and losing eight of its 13 games by five or more goals. Benson’s football team ranked last in the state.

And, the initial decision for the two-year plan was made by men, apparently not considering in the slightest that they should offer girls in the program the same opportunity as the boys.

A lawsuit seeking damages after a season plays out would be pretty unique, but the active bargaining power would be the depositions that would be needed from Haskins, Wilson, Archer, Curtis, chief academic officer Luis Valentino, probably even district superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero.

The lawsuit would be for damages caused by the school not offering equal opportunity to varsity athletics, and involve coming up with a monetary figure for what a varsity letter is actually worth. Maybe other incoming seniors would become inolved in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit that would probabaly start with the key question of can someone actually sue a district for something they didn’t have the opportunity to get?

And, it would involve the key part of the two-year plan - the schedule. Is a varsity team determined by the level of its expected results against other teams, or is it determined by the skill level of athletes showcased against other athletes at their school and then promoted as the best team at that school? Those players change every year.

The best evidence in this case, ironically, is the schedule the girls played in fall. Because it was produced at the last minute, the two teams had to share one schedule, which was mostly JVII teams. The girls did get to play three games against JV teams, which was the three-year plan, and that’s supported on the OSAA website, so the program wouldn’t actually be moving from JVII to varsity in one year.

This lawsuit would be quite a trainwreck for Portland Public Schools.

Or, the district could simply create a varsity schedule for the Benson girls for 2019 and tell them, “we believe in you just like we believe in the boys at the school. Now go show the state what you got.” In 2019, not 2020 as is the current two-year plan.

I’ve spent four months working to change the initial decision and have used the threat of protests, of media awareness, and now a lawsuit to get the district to adhere to the school’s original request for a varsity team. If you’re reading this, you’ll know the district is simply going to support Haskins and his belief that a varsity team is based on its projected results months ahead of a season, rather than a school’s compilation of its best athletes against other athletes.

So, what’s the value of a varsity letter? In my house, it’s quite a lot, and not just in terms of money.

State playoffs gear up

Championship finals begin Saturday
By Cliff Pfenning,

The high school state playoffs began this past weekend in several sports, but the big events - the state finals - begin Saturday.

The annual cross country finals are set to begin at 10 a.m. on the 5,000 meter course at Lane Community College Saturday, with individual and team titles being awarded in four classifications.

Titles in boys and girls soccer, volleyball and football will also be awarded by the Oregon School Activities Association during the next five weeks.

Championship tournaments for boys and girls water polo are set for the Osborn Aquatic Center on the campus of Oregon State University Thursday through Saturday at Class 5A, and Nov. 10-11 for Class 6A. Water polo is organized outside the OSAA.

Newberg has a three-year win streak going at the Class 6A boys tournament, while Mountain View has won the past two Class 5A boys titles in water polo.

Central Catholic enters the cross country championships as the favorite to not only win the Class 6A boys title, but continue its four-year win streak long into the future. The Rams won the Mount Hood Conference title Wednesday scoring the minimum 15 points - and with the top eight finishers. None of Central Catholic's top eight finishers were seniors. The Rams have won 10 titles since winning their first in 2003.

Summit will look to return to ownership of the Class 6A boys level after having its five-year win streak snapped by Crater last year. The Storm will run into Central Catholic next year, though, as the school moves up to the Class 6A level.

Volleyball championships will play out this weekend as well, with eight-team tournaments set to begin Friday at three courts across the state. Liberty High School in Hillsboro will host the Class 6A and 5A tournaments, with title matches set for Saturday night. Forest Grove High School will play host to the Class 4A and 3A tournaments, while Ridgeview High School in Redmond will play host to the Class 2A and 1A tournaments.

Country Christian of Molalla has the lone volleyball title win streak having won the past three titles at Class 1A.

Sisters and Crook Country, schools that played for the Class 4A title last year, met in the quarterfinals Friday morning with the defending-champion Outlaws winning in three sets.

Boys and girls soccer state title matches in all six classifications will be played Nov. 11 at Liberty High and Hillsboro Stadium. Oregon Episcopal has the lone soccer win streak having won the past three Class 3A girls titles. Of the eight championship matches from last year, three were decided by penalty kicks and only one was decided by more than one goal - Catlin Gabel's 3-1 win over Portland Adventist in the Class 3A boys final.

The state football championship games are scheduled for Nov. 25th and Dec. 2.

Clackamas and West Salem enter the Class 6A playoffs as two of the more interesting teams stemming from their histories: neither has been to a championship game. Clackamas has gone undefeated this season, averaging 53 points per game and earning the second seed in the 32-team tournament. West Salem enters with one loss and the fourth seed. A team from the Salem area has not played for the title since McNary won in 2001.

Since 2008, no team has won the Class 6A title with more than one loss on their schedule. There are seven teams this year with one or no losses heading into Friday.

Only Dufur has a title win-streak going having won the past two Class 1A championships.



State gets ready for new champions

Hillsboro Stadium, Libertty High will see action all day Saturday
Nov. 16, 2012

The annual invasion of high school soccer into Hillsboro takes place Saturday when eight state championships will be decided at Hillsboro Stadium and Liberty High School.

The Class 6A and 5A matches will be played at the stadium, while 4A and 3A are decided at the high school.

Matches begin at 10:30 a.m.

Here's the line-up:


5A GIRLS • 10:30 a.m.

SHERWOOD (14-1-2) v SUMMIT (14-0-2)

Sherwood has allowed just one goal in the past six games and  has 10 shutouts during the season. Summit had both of its ties in the first four games and has outscored its three playoff opponents 15-1.

5A BOYS • 1 p.m.

WOODBURN (14-0-2) v MOUNTIAN VIEW (11-4-2)

Woodburn is the two-time defending champion and has a 10-game winning streak. Mountain View stated 0-3-1, but has a nine-game win streak.

6A GIRLS • 3:30 p.m.

THURSTON (16-0-1) v CLACKAMAS (11-4-2)

Thurston has 134 shutouts this season and only a tie with Lincoln in midseason. Clackamas is the championship underdog with four losses, but won its semi over Lakeridge in penalty kicks. The Cavs have six shutout this season.

6A BOYS • 6 p.m.

LINCOLN (12-1-4) v JESUIT (16-1-1)

Lincoln has eight shutouts and the ties were all 1-1 or 0-0. Jesuit, the champion from two years ago, tied Grant in its third game and has allowed just three goals in its last seven games.


3A GIRLS • 10:30


Valley Catholic has allowed only eight goal all season. OES had 12 shutouts this season and allowed just six goals.

3A BOYS • 1 p.m.


It's a rematch from Oct. 29, when OES won 2-1.


4A GIRLS • 3:30 p.m.

MAZAMA (16-0-1) v GLADSTONE (15-1-1)

Mazama has scored 10 goals in a game three times and has a 12-game win streak. Gladstone has allowed only 3 goals all season.

4A BOYS • 6 p.m.

PHILOMATH (12-2-3) v LA SALLE (16-2)

Philomath has allowed only 10 goals all seaosn. La Salle has allowed only 13.

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