All's fair in love and basketball until you ask a co-ed team to play without the girls.

Sitting in matching navy shirts with #unitygames on the front, the fifth-grade students raised their hands in a vote. It was unanimous.

Photo by John O’Boyle/NJ.com/Advance Media.

The members of the St. John's fifth-grade Catholic Youth Organization basketball team had made their decision. They would rather forfeit that Friday night’s game (and potentially the rest of the season) instead of the alternative: continuing to play without the two girls who had been part of the team for years.


If you’re thinking, "This sounds like the plot of a movie I would be deeply invested in," you’re not alone. The riveting real-life feel-good sports drama is playing out in New Jersey and, thanks to an article by NJ Advance Media, has captured the attention of the nation.

It all started two weeks ago, when the team found out that the girls were not going to be allowed to play on the team for the remainder of the season.

An error that had gone uncorrected for years — the team was never supposed to be co-ed in the first place — created a dilemma. Would the team play without the girls? Or would they stand together and forfeit the game?

But this isn't the part of the story where the coach steps in and teaches the team a lesson about unity. Get ready to be even more impressed.

Photo by John O’Boyle/NJ.com/Advance Media.

Coach Rob Martel refused to make a decision for the kids, instead letting them decide how to move forward on their own.

"One parent told me it's my decision (whether the girls play), but I said no way, I'm not making this decision for 11 10-year-olds," said Martel, whose daughter is one of the girls on the team.

Last Friday, sitting in the gym in matching shirts, the players voted on what they thought was fair, reaching the unanimous decision that unless the whole team could play Friday's game, the whole team would skip it in a show of solidarity.

The following day, the girls tried to return the favor, volunteering to sit out for Saturday’s game in hopes that the boys would be able to play in the final game of the season.

Unfortunately, their generosity was not rewarded. The league director called the team's decision to sit out of Friday's game a "stunt," Keisha Martel, an assistant coach for the St. John’s team, told NJ Advance Media, and as a result, the game was canceled and the season forfeited.

The team wouldn’t be allowed finish the season together, apart, or at all.

Photo by John O’Boyle/NJ.com/Advance Media.

The kids weren’t the only ones disappointed by the situation.

The St. John’s team was scheduled to play their final game against Aquinas Academy on Saturday. Leslie Thomas, Aquinas Academy’s athletic director, received news only hours before that the game was canceled.

Photo by John O’Boyle/NJ.com/Advance Media.

"I'm sick and tired of this," Thomas said. "It's not necessary. This league is about teaching our kids sportsmanship and this is definitely not sportsmanship."

Photo by John O’Boyle/NJ.com/Advance Media.

(Update 2/16/17: Let's hear it for the girls! The decision has been reversed, which means the girls will be allowed back on the St. John's team. And that's not all! The two regular season games the team forfeited will be rescheduled and played ASAP, according to NJ Advance Media. The fifth graders will get a chance to go to the playoffs after all. Most importantly, they'll get to go together.)

Stories like this are just one more example of how girls are often so easily pushed out of sports at a young age.

According to the National Women's Law Center, girls who play sports "report better health, body image, popularity, and an overall higher quality of life, compared to girls who don’t play sports." Unfortunately, as the Women's Sports Foundation has found, by the time girls reach age 14, they're dropping out of sports at twice the rate of boys their age.

So what's keeping our girls from pursuing organized team sports and gaining all of those benefits? You guessed it: One of the main reasons for this dramatic decrease in girls playing sports is lack of access.

Think about that. Really think about it. What if lack of access had kept our country's best athletes from the court or the field or the pitch?

For starters, the United States would've won five fewer medals in the Rio Olympics had Simone Biles been told there wasn't a place for her in the gym.

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

What about all the girls who are now playing soccer after watching the U.S. Women's National Team win the 2015 FIFA World Cup? What would they be doing after school if Carli Lloyd hadn't been given the opportunity to play growing up?

This story isn't just about these two girls on the St. John's team who are being told after years of playing on the same team as their male peers that they're no longer welcome on the court. This is about every girl who deserves a chance to be part of something bigger than herself and every girl who will be inspired by her in the years to come.

So look around in your community. Do girls have equal access to sports teams? What opportunities can you help create that would allow them pursue the games they love?

Watch the girls. Cheer them on. And if you're the one making the call, let them play.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less
True

2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less