She’s just like one of the boys

No girls team at school? That doesn’t stop St. Rose of Lima’s Amanda Santoro from playing.

By Brad Stratton
Staff Writer

Amanda Santoro was angry.

She had just been told there wouldn’t be an eighth-grade girls basketball team at St. Rose of Lima Grammar School this season. There was not enough support to field a girls team.

“I was kind of mad,” Amanda said, “because basketball has been my life.”

But thanks to the efforts of the coaches and the school, Amanda is playing on the seventh- and eighth-grade boys team.

Amanda spends much of her year playing basketball, as a member of the Freehold Township travel team. She also plays in Freehold Recreation, the Amateur Athletic Union and the Shore Stars.

The issue at St. Rose of Lima gets complicated when examined under the guidelines of Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972. In public schools, Amanda would have to be admitted to the boys team under the rules of Title IX. But since St. Rose of Lima is a parochial school, that law does not apply.

The wheels began to turn when Gerard “Roddy” Mullin, a member of the boys team and a friend of Amanda’s, talked to his father and team assistant coach, Rod Mullin.

“There wasn’t a girls team,” Roddy said, “so I told my dad I thought Amanda would be a good help to our team. I knew that she was good enough.”

“After my son told me, I happened to see Amanda at a travel game,” Mullin said. “She told me how disappointed she was (that there wasn’t a girls team at the school), and I asked her if she would be interested to play on the boys team. She said absolutely.”

After talking to Amanda, the next step in the process would be to get approval from the school’s administration, a step that proved successful.

“I was kind of worried that it wouldn’t happen,” Amanda said, “because I didn’t know what they would say. “(When I was told of the decision), I screamed. I screamed, and I called Gerard on the phone.”

With Amanda on the team, the next step was to integrate her with the other players. Amanda would join a team that had been together since fifth grade. There were concerns she would not be well-received.

“Amanda has played on boys teams before where either (the boys) or the coaches don’t acknowledge her existence,” Amanda’s mother, Stephanie Santoro, said.

Mullin wasn’t too concerned with that, feeling Amanda would have little problems with her new teammates. Coach Ed Klementowicz said he was more concerned that one of the parents would be upset his or her son was being passed over for a girl.

But everyone’s worries proved to be false, and Amanda was welcomed by both teammates and parents.

Of course, it helps that she’s good, and aggressive.

“She leads the team in fouls,” Klementowicz said. “She set a pick in one game, and they had to carry a guy off the floor. She was standing there, and the guy ran into her.”

“She’s become one of the guys,” Mullin said. “I wish there were more kids like her.”

Playing on the boys team means Amanda had to adjust to the faster tempo, something that should help her next year when she goes to St. Rose High School in Belmar. She has also been a nice addition to a St. Rose of Lima team (15-4) that has played alongside the top teams in the Mid-Monmouth Parochial League.

“The boys on the team have accepted her as an equal, as an athlete that can play and contribute to the team,” Santoro said.

Ultimately, the biggest memento Amanda might take from her season with the boys may not be the invaluable basketball experience, but instead the experience of being accepted as an equal.

“I’m with these guys every day,” Amanda said. “It’s like my extended family, like having 12 brothers.”

Asbury Park Press (Freehold Reporter) – February 1, 2001