PE Handball Unit Causes Controversy

PE Handball Unit Causes Controversy

Students in SHS Physical Ed- ucation Coach Scagnelli’s hand- ball class reported that the rules of handball were changed to ap- ply differently to girls and boys. Scagnelli acknowledged his use of modified game rules, but be- lieved that the rules were bene- ficial for increasing class partic- ipation. These rules have been a controversial topic for many stu- dents. While some believe that the modified rules are sexist, others feel as if the rules were right- fully changed and are helping to increase class participation.

Members of Coach Scagnelli’s class reported that modified rules were used. “A certain number of girls and guys [were placed] on each team… a girl had to touch the ball before anybody scored, and a girl was able to enter a certain zone very close to the goalie while guys couldn’t go in,” shared an anonymous male student ’16. Other rules were modified to increase student par- ticipation. “He [Scagnelli] put a special box around the wall where you serve the handball to earn points in the game, and only the girls were allowed to go into the box and… could go howev- er close they wanted to, but the guys had to stay farther away,” said Dorothea Stefanou ’16. The International Handball Federa- tion handbook clearly states a different rule regarding the goal zone: “Only the goalkeeper is allowed to enter the goal area.” The only gender specific rules that the handbook mentions are in reference to the size of hand- ball used, stating that a size three handball should be used for men and male children over 16, and a size two handball should be used for women, female children over 14, and male youth from 12 to 16.

Coach Scagnelli defended the altered class rules. “I do make it a rule that the ball cannot be shot at a goal until a girl in the class has touched the ball first. This rule is in place to ensure that all members of the class are actively engaged in the class, and that the boys in the class do not dominate the ball the entire game,” said Scagnelli. He says that the only reason for the zone rule is to force the girls to be more involved in the game. “One of our teaching tools can be to include modified versions of a game. After assessing the individual skill levels of the students as well as the dynamics of each class, employing modified rules in various lessons can help to provide a more beneficial ex- perience. It can serve as a way to increase student partic- ipation on a class-by-class basis,” shared Nicole Roemer, physical education department chair. She acknowledged the benefits of the adjusted rules. “[Modified rules] can help to provide a more beneficial experience for all because it can serve as a way to increase student participation taking into account student levels of ability in each class.” She mentioned that a goal of the PE staff is to maximize student participation, and lesson plans with modified rules are often given thoughtful consideration and planning.

The student body has different thoughts about the rea- sons for modified rules. Some students believed that the rulesweresexistandunnecessary.“CoachScagnelliprob- ably thinks that girls aren’t as good at sports, and that we need special things to help us to participate in gym class, but… I don’t think that’s true at all- I think it depends on the attitude of the class and the attitude of the people in the class that determines whether or not they’re going to actually participate,” said Stefanou. Other students were more understanding of the rules’ implementation. “I think he is trying to maximize participation, but it clearly comes out as offensive to a lot of the girls in the class… I don’t think he’s trying to be offensive. I think he has really good intentions, and he wants everyone to participate. It’s just that the way he teaches it and how he comes off is offen- sive,” shared the anonymous student.

While modified class rules are controversial, the word ‘sexist’ may not entirely describe the situation. Changed rules are often created in response to a level of participa- tion within a class, so students must consider the influence of their own actions in these situations. PE teachers do their best to create a safe and positive learning environment for all participants, regardless of ability and gender.

By Emily Kopp