On The Pregnant Teen Athlete Who Wasn't Allowed to Play Volleyball Controversy

7 years ago

When Mackenzie McCollum was told she couldn't play volleyball at school anymore until she had a doctor's note she was upset for several reasons. First of all, she wasn't telling many people she was pregnant, the mother of a teammate called the coach and informed him. Mackenzie is only 17 years old and a senior in high school. She was also upset that the coach told the whole team that she was pregnant while discussing who would be the starting center in Mackenzie's absence.

It gets even trickier.

Mackenzie was told by school officials that in accordance with district policy, she needed to get a doctor’s note clearing her to play. She was able to provide the note, but it was rejected because the doctor included restrictions, including one that stated that Mackenzie’s heart rate must not exceed 140 while she was on the court. It was only after the doctor provided a second, restriction-free note that McCollum was allowed back on the team.

Jennie - Imperfect Women

As the story goes, after that Mackenzie was allowed back on the team but her playing time was restricted by her coach. The same man who told the whole team she was pregnant in the first place.

This is where I began to get uncomfortable. Let us put aside for a moment the fact that her coach had no right to divulge anything about her medical condition to anyone, I am fairly certain that is against the law, and move on to the notes from her doctor.

If playing volleyball would in no way harm Mackenzie or her unborn child then she should have been allowed to go on as before.

But if that is the case, why did the doctor send the first note?

I've exercised with a heart monitor and I've seen my heart rate reach 160 while sprinting.

I've also been pregnant twice.

The first time I went about business as usual and I lost the baby. The second time I wasn't allowed to do anything. I wasn't allowed to jump, or run, or swim, or lift heavy things and I spent six weeks on bed rest and I had two healthy babies.

Now, I completely understand that my situation was unusual and Mackenzie McCollum is a healthy 17 year old woman. I understand that most women are able to exercise throughout their pregnancies and have healthy happy children.

I just want you to understand why if it were me - if I were the coach, or the mother/grandmother I would be extraordinarily apprehensive about my pregnant daughter playing a competitive sport.

I don't see it as sexist, I see it as a health issue. This isn't about the mother, this is about the baby. It is the same reason we stop drinking when we get pregnant. Because it is bad for the baby.

Okay, my opinion aside there are others who feel that Mackenzie has every right to be playing full time.

Laura Pappano says:

...More than 150 years after we met Hester Prynne, out-of-wedlock girls who get pregnant are still shamed. McCollum, who chose not to end the pregnancy because of her faith, bears the burden of stares in the hallways and whispered judgments.

It's troubling when school officials reveal their ignorance precisely when a student most needs sensible support. Pregnancy is NOT a state of incapacity. McCollum's future will be more than challenging, but she is no less of a student or an athlete than she was last year. Like any other high school senior, she should not stop doing the things that are central to her self-worth, identity, and - yes - physical and emotional health.

And from MomLogic:

What if the guy who knocked her up was on the football team? Would he have been cut from the team, too? Of course not!

And all this happened in Texas, a very pro-life state. Mackenzie herself is pro-life. Yet she is being punished and discriminated against because she DID NOT terminate her pregnancy. Unbelievable!

I'm so sick of women being discriminated against just because they're pregnant. It's almost 2010, people. Get with the program!

And there is the side of school. Audra from Rediscovering Domesticity used to be a teacher and she says:

As a former teacher (taught high school for 3 years), I understand the difficult situation the school is in.  They need to look out for the safety of the students first and foremost.  They also need to guard against lawsuits.    What would happen if this student miscarried after a physical game?  Would this mother who is fighting so hard for her daughter to play turn around and sue the school for not monitoring her carefully enough?

Also, schools often are looking for ways to educate their pregnant students while not encouraging teenage pregnancies.  I watched as students began wishing for a baby once they held a friend's baby or saw the ultrasound pictures.  One comment I heard repeatedly, "It wouldn't be that hard - I'd have somebody to love me."  Some of those girls who made those comments became pregnant shortly after making those comments.  By limiting some activities (limiting sports, altering class schedule to help student graduate before delivery, etc), other female students will see that life DOES change with a pregnancy and with motherhood.

See? I said it was tricky. Every side has a valid point. Where do you stand on Mackenzie McCollum? She is 17 years old, should we even be discussing this?


More on Mackenzie from:




BlogHer Contributing Editor, Sports and Fitness Sarah and the Goon Squad Draft Day Suit

This is an article written by one of the incredible members of the SheKnows Community. The SheKnows editorial team has not edited, vetted or endorsed the content of this post. Want to join our amazing community and share your own story? Sign up here.

More from entertainment

by Chloe Stillwell
| 8 hours ago
by Christina Marfice
| 12 hours ago