The strongest high school field hockey player in all of western Massachusetts stands 6'5", weighs 205 pounds and would look better in his skirt if he shaved his legs. His name is Ryan Sherburne, and he led Mohawk Trail Regional High in Shelburne Falls to the state semifinals this year. Problem is, he's not within a RuPaul chorus line of being a girl.
Bigger and faster than a Chrysler minivan, Ryan, 17, has a slap shot that nearly separated a few girls from their sports bras this year. And people are mad about it. "What's it gonna take—a girl being seriously hurt?" asks Longmeadow High coach Ann Simons. "Parents could sue me for having their kids out there."
One of Ryan's shots doubled over a girl on an opposing team, forcing her to the sideline. When Ryan's father, Bill, asked her coach if the girl's stomach felt better, the coach snarled, "Stomach? Put it this way: If your son was hit where she got hit, he'd still be lying on the field."
There have been a lot of snarls in Ryan's direction, and he has heard them all.
Football field is that way, Bubba.
Pick on somebody your own size!
Hey, sweetheart, you free after the game?
"It doesn't bother me," says Ryan, a senior midfielder who first tried field hockey five years ago while rehabbing from a knee injury. "I just play, and people can say what they want."
They're saying a lot. Parents are worried about their daughters' safety. Mothers on opposing sidelines have screamed, "Kill him! Knock him on his ass!"
"It gets to the point where I don't want him going to the bathroom by himself," says Mohawk Trail coach Lynn Hoeppner. "To hear adults taunt a kid.... Hard to believe. I say let everyone play."