ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Jaelyn Bates doesn’t just play with the boys, she beats them, frequently.
The pint-sized 10-year-old is described by her coach Kevin Frey as a “stud” and a “superstar”. Jaelyn plays on a 4th grade boy’s club team, Frey Basketball Academy.
“The girls didn’t really give me a competition,” Jaelyn said.
“If there’s not another team that she can go to where the competition is going to be equal so that she can continue to get better, why hold her back,” said Barry Bates, Jaelyn’s father.
“I’ve never seen it before,” Frey said. “Not at this level.”
“You hear comments of, ‘Who’s got the girl?’ and quickly they realize that she’s just not any girl.”
Having a girl on a boy’s team hasn’t been a problem for the coach, the players or any of the tournaments Frey Basketball Academy plays in.
That is, until a week ago.
One of the state’s big tournaments is the upcoming Southwest Salsa Slam, a qualifying tournament for the national championships at the level Frey Basketball Academy’s fourth grade team plays at. It’s organized by New Mexico Select and tips off in a little more than two weeks.
Jaelyn’s team was signed up to play. But last week, tournament organizers notified the team that as long as Jaelyn suited up for the squad, the team wouldn’t be allowed to participate.
Here’s part of the email the team received:
“Girls can not play on boys teams and boys can not play on girls teams. That has been a rule in our tournament for a number of years but has not always been enforced. This year it will strictly be enforced for all teams.”
After a number of parents and Frey himself complained, the tournament sent another email:
“The intent of the rule is simple; if you allow a 4th grade girl to play on a 4th grade boys team, how do you stop a 6’10” freshman boy from being allowed to play on a freshman girls team… NM Select will not bend or change our rules.”
Those rules are in line with AAU guidelines, which also prohibit girls from playing on boys. But Frey said the tournament is not bound by AAU rules and should make an exception for fourth grade teams.
“They can go by any rules they determine and these are the rules that they set,” Frey said. “To us this is just stunning that there’s this type of issue.”
Oddly, Jaelyn’s team played in another tournament organized by NM Select, the 2013 Turkey Jam, with Jaelyn and without an issue.
Jaelyn’s father Barry Bates says because NM Select has club teams of their own playing that have repeatedly lost to Jaelyn and her teammates, the decision is an attempt to hurt Frey Basketball Academy’s chances.
Frey and Jaelyn’s parents plan on fighting the decision in court. Attorney Daymon Ely is working on the case pro bono and tells KRQE News 13 he plans on filing for an injunction later this week in a bid to allow Jaelyn to play.
“If the talent is there the kid should be able to play regardless,” Barry Bates said. “She’s worked hard to get where she’s at and I don’t think it’s fair for someone else to hold her down.”
NM Select did not respond to email requests for an interview or comment for this story as of Monday night.