Senior Surra Elum tries to make history
The girls lined up. From behind, their hair swayed as they ran and stretched. Most people would never be able to tell that one of those girls was actually a boy in a wig.
Powderpuff is a flag football game traditionally played between junior and senior high school girls for charity. But this year, senior Surra Elum joined the powderpuff team and trained with the senior girls at practice, planning to play during the game, Friday October 26, 2018 as well.
Elum originally signed up for the junior team last year as a joke, but he said he was judged for it. This year, he wanted to play on the powderpuff team no matter what people’s reactions were going to be.
“Last year I put my name on the list and some people were not too happy about it, and that was a negative reaction, so this year I wanted to prove them wrong a little bit and do what I wanted to do,” said Elum.
Elum showed up for the game in a wig, he was proving a point to the people who disagreed with his choice to place.
“The wig was mostly a joke, but also, I thought it would be a pretty big statement if I just wore it. It was just another thing for me to forget the haters, so I did it just to do it,” said Elum.
Even though Elum trained and practiced with the senior girls, he was told on the night of the game that he had to stay on the sidelines.
While Elum walked onto the field, planning to make a touchdown with only a few minutes left in the game, was stopped by Principal Michael Willard, who said he had no prior knowledge of a boy playing on the team.
“[The discussion] happened on the field, and I was just trying to explain to him, as everyone else, that this game has historically been a girls powderpuff football game, so without a larger discussion around a coed type program, I could not allow him to play,” said Willard.
A boy joining a girls athletic team is not allowed without more conversation with officials to make sure the girls are safe playing in a coed group.
“I think that because girls can play on the football team, then it would be fair if guys can play powderpuff. I just feel like as long as you qualify for it, then you should be able to play. It is not about special treatment; it is about playing just as much as anybody else,” said Elum.
“The powderpuff game is not an official high school game, so there are no official rules, but the guidelines for the game are taken from the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA)” said Mr. Willard.
Elum could have had a chance to play but was stopped by Willard.
“[The discussion] literally came up on the football field knowing this in advance we could have talked that out and figured out something, but to do this in the middle of the game when there has not been a conversation is not the most appropriate time to do so,” said Willard.
Since Elum could not play, he still cheered and encouraged his team members.
Elum said, “I felt like my team was pretty supportive and it was a pretty good moment. Even though I did get stopped, it was pretty fun.”
See below for photos from the event.
Photo Credits: Delaney Darling and Jami Sailer