UPDATE: 5th grade girls team in Hoover receives trophies after controversy over winning league championship

Response to basketball tournament controversy
Published: Mar. 6, 2023 at 10:56 PM CST
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HOOVER, Ala. (WBRC) - We’re getting new reaction from Hoover city leaders about a controversary around an all-girls youth basketball team that won the championship but left empty handed.

The girls team won the 5th grade boys recreation league championship but were not given a trophy initially. That caused a lot of outrage online with parents saying the girls who are on an elite team deserve to be recognized.

The city sent us this new statement regarding the situation:

“Questions have recently been raised about recognition of teams participating in a youth basketball tournament conducted by the Hoover Parks and Recreation Department (HPRD).

For many years, HPRD has allowed “elite” teams based in Hoover to participate in tournaments it conducts. Those “elite” teams are not sought out by HPRD, but rather they come to HPRD and ask to participate. Members of “elite” teams are hand selected. They do not go through the same talent evaluation as those who participate on regular recreation league teams. Therefore, “elite” teams willingly agree to compete against recreation teams in a different division within their grade level or against teams that are above their grade level to ensure fair competition for all youth athletes. If an “elite” team participates in an HPRD youth tournament and makes it to the championship round, they are not eligible to receive any awards/trophies. Only regular recreation teams are eligible for awards/trophies.

Coaches of the “elite” teams are made aware of and agree to these rules at the time they request to participate. It is important to note the same provisions have always applied to both girls and boys “elite” teams. HPRD has never treated any team differently based on gender or any other factor, except for the “elite” status of some teams. To that point, in the same recent tournament that has been in question, a boys “elite” team also won a championship game, but they did not receive any awards/trophies. They were not eligible because of their “elite” status. This winning team included the son of a City of Hoover elected official, which indicates the same rules are applied to all teams, regardless of gender.

The two “elite” teams that won their grade brackets have been invited to attend the Hoover City Council meeting Monday, March 6th, 2023 so that they can be recognized for their recent victories. The Hoover Parks and Recreation Department is also reviewing all of its youth athletic league policies to ensure competition and recognition procedures are fair to all participants and that those procedures are more clearly understood.”

No one from the city wanted to go on camera. We also received out multiple times to the girls’ coach and parents and no one has gotten back with us. The city did send us a statement from Coach Wes Russell.

“We appreciate the City of Hoover recognizing our team tonight and our success in this basketball season.

Social media posts have negatively portrayed the rules and policies of the City of Hoover Parks and Recreation as somehow unfairly treating girls versus boys. The City of Hoover has allowed our team to utilize and practice in municipal gyms, just as they have done in my 12+ years of coaching in both the Hoover girls and boys leagues. Our team knew the rules of the Hoover Rec league prior to the tournament, and we still chose to have our team compete in this boys tournament. I have coached boys and girls flag football, and boys and girls basketball all under the umbrella of the City of Hoover leagues. In my 12+ years of coaching, boys and girls have always been given equal treatment. While the optics of this story appear to paint the City of Hoover in a negative light, my personal experience and that of so many other Hoover families tell a different story. The Hoover Parks and Rec Dept. has agreed to review the rules related to competitive teams playing in the rec league to clarify the rules and make them fair to all participants going forward.”- Wes Russell

According to the city, the Lady Jags received trophies and a commemorative coin from Mayor Frank Brocato Monday during a private ceremony at their request in lieu of attending the city council meeting.

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