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Tuesday, 06 September 2011 17:37

Football for Girls: A Father's Tale

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Being the father of a young daughter who absolutely loves football I know the upsides and downsides to a young girl who just wants to play a game that she loves but sometimes is told she can't or shouldn't.

     Since the time my daughter, Lexus, was about 6 years old I knew she loved football, I just didn't realize how much. I first started realizing it when she would come and sit down and watch a whole game with me and her G-pa (a tag given to my dad by my son to signify grandpa). She would ask questions about the game and what was going on. Shortly thereafter it grew into her recreating plays she saw on the TV right there in the middle of our living room. Her and her slightly older brother would then eventually get into mini-matches to see who could score or make the best tackle. That's when we started wondering if maybe she would someday play but kind of shrugged off as just a phase she was going through.

     It wasn't until a couple years later that an unrealized opportunity would present itself. We received a flyer in the mail one day for a fairly new local football league. So we asked our son Toby if he wanted to play and that's when she hit us with: "I want to play too!" Umm, say what? Ok, we had talked about this before but never actually thought it could be possible. We told her that we weren't sure if the league would allow girls to play with the boys and she replied back "Why Not, That Wouldn't Be Fair?" We just stood back for a minute and said you know what she's right!

     We called the league that day and spoke with the league director and he was surprisingly all for it, no hesitation. When we told her that he said it would be ok, her faced just glowed with excitement and happiness. She was more excited than her brother was.

     We were very lucky as the league placed her with a coach who was more than enthusiastic about it. We were blessed to have Coach Tony as her very first coach, he taught her the basics and from there she just blossomed. She out ran most of the boys and most of the time outperformed them too, enough to become the starting Defensive End. Most of the boys accepted her with no issues at all.

     She played great all season. The best part is when I would hear: That was girl? Especially when it came from some boys after a crack she put on a running back that was heard at the top of the bleachers at a local HS. She had become the sweetheart of the league, everybody knew who she was and loved her. She was also really respected after some of the hits she laid on the boys.

     It wasn't until a couple of seasons later when we started having issues and seeing the downside to her playing in a boys league. After her second straight season, Coach Tony decided to take a small break from coaching for personal reasons and handed the team over to me and the rest of the coaches. I had decided to take over offense and give it a shot. With the new team we had decided to let everyone fight for positions again. In my opinion Lexus had what it takes to be a WR, she could catch and run so I placed her there. Well this did not go over so well with the other coaches (that along with my offense, I admit it, I'm not an offense guy).

     Once the other coaches took over the offense they immediately pushed her out of her position which she had earned, wasn't given. One of them went as far as to say that girls shouldn't be playing football in general let alone offense. Say What? You Mother May I! If the kids wouldn't have been around it could have gotten ugly. I had to pull myself together and said fine as long as she was happy still playing defense I was cool.

     The next season got even worst, I was totally pushed off the team since I missed the one coaches meeting they had on a day that they knew I had to work. Needless to say she stayed on the team, BIG MISTAKE! They hardly played her all season and she was mad and worst of all hurt.

     The next year it was time for my own team where once again she earned her position as DE and WR. Don't think a girl can play WR? Against the same that wouldn't play her: 30yd pass to the 2 yard line. Lucky? Ok, next game different team: Juke the Bump-N-Run CB off the line, Pass over the Middle, Stiff Arm the LB, Nice Block by her Brother, 45yd run down the sideline, TOUCHDOWN! All in all about 120yds over 4 games. As for defense, teams would run opposite of her, Enough Said...

Warning, Proud Personal Coach Moment: The next season she would help take her team to the championship.  That team only had 15 players, 9 of who had never played before or had only played one season and most played both sides of the ball all game. Sorry, I was and still am very proud of every single one of those players (who know who you are).

     Unfortunately due to a falling out with the now former director of the league and for family reasons I would take a break from coaching. Over the next few seasons and no longer being in a position of say, my daughter would have her heart broken and lose confidence as coach after coach would play her less and less, citing the boys are just too much bigger than her? True but wasn't the kid she just took down in the open field 2' taller that her?

     To break it down even further, I think she took it really to heart when she attended the NCAA youth football camp last year only to hear the new head coach of the UNLV team say: "Sorry but girls have no place on an NCAA field, they are not of the same physical stature as guys". To hear that coming from a coach from a school that she one day had hoped to play for is disheartning. This girl is a diehard UNLV fan even more than I am. She has dreamed of being the first girl to play for UNLV (not as a kicker) since she started playing football. She said she shook it off and didn't take it personal but to tell you the truth, she hasn't seemed the same since.

     And this is just where the problem begins for girls. My daughter, now 13, is being dramatically outgrown by her male counterparts. The boys in the division she is pegged for are way to big for her, she has unfortunately been outweighed and outgrown to play in that division of Unlimited Weight. And so goes the story for many girls (but not all) with the aspirations of playing football.

     So what is a girl to do? Quit? Nah, that's too easy. Fortunately, in response to these issues and the growth of professional women's teams, girls youth tackle football programs are starting to pop-up all around the country, including here in Las Vegas.

For all you parent's with daughters who want to play tackle football I say go for it, especially if they have they have the ability to to do it. Don't back down and be pushed around by the "old era" coaches. Some leagues are also willing to let girls play down a level if the  boys are too big. If tackle is not for them (or you) Flag Football is always another good option.

     As for my daughter: She just finished playing her 11th season of tackle football in a boys league. She is currently taking a break to concentrate on school work and playing basketball at her school.... Her brother just started playing Freshman Football for Clark HS, PROUD OF THEM BOTH ;)

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