Growing up, I always thought it would be enjoyable to play football. My older brother was super into it, and being the only boy, he resorted to always asking his little sister (me) to throw the football with him in the front yard. I really enjoyed it, especially if he threw one that I had to jump to the side to catch ‒ like I was intercepting it from an opposing team.
Throwing the football back and forth with my brother progressed to playing football games with the rest of the neighbors. I was the only girl that played with them, and if I came late to a game and asked to join, the rules automatically changed from tackle to two-hand-touch. The boys I played with would never intentionally hurt me, but they were most definitely stronger and could hurt 9-year-old me if things got too aggressive. I was smaller and physically weaker than the boys that I played with, there’s no debating that, but I do wish my opportunity to seriously play the same sport was equal to theirs.
Current science teacher Cat Lest (’09) was one of the first female wrestlers at McNick, following in the footsteps of Teresa Rudy (’10). Lest was a standout sprinter during her time at McNick, and went out for wrestling to stay in shape during the winter. Lest said she never received any backlash or insults directly, but feels she probably did get some behind her back. Lest said, “[You] just [have to] know that you’re allowed [to play.] People were always surprised and said to me ‘Oh you’re allowed to be on the boy’s team?’ That’s something just a lot of people didn’t know. I know there are strong girls, fast girls, and athletic girls, out there that could be extremely good at football or wrestling. [They] just have to know that they’re allowed try out.”
Growing up, if there was an opportunity for me to play football with other girls, I believe I would have taken it. In a recent Milestone survey, 85% of the 40 female respondents feel they would be judged if they were to try out for wrestling or football, and 88% felt that growing up they couldn’t participate in football or wrestling because they were only meant to be played by boys. All sports need to be marketed towards an equal audience. Boys participate in female dominated sports such as dance and cheerleading, so why can’t it also be the other way around?
According to Stadium Talk, football is the second most popular sport in high schools following behind Track and Field. This being said, the NFL doesn’t need to put as much effort in to their recruitment marketing as say Archery (being the second to last least popular sport) because it’s already so popular. The problem is the misunderstanding that it’s just for boys. There’s never even been an all-female league. The mentality has just always been that football was for boys, and the girls cheered them on. So maybe it’s not the recruiting that’s the problem, but rather the mentality that girls aren’t capable of playing and the prejudice that would face if they did.
It’s no secret that toxic masculinity is a part of the package when it comes to sports like football. If girls were to be on the team, how would that change? In a sport that strives to achieve the hardest hits and toughest men, there is little surprise when former NFL players like Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson and Ray Rice have assaulted their partners, which ultimately lead to the termination of their contracts with the NFL. That is toxic masculinity; manhood designated as violence, sex, status, and aggression. And so the question has to be asked: If girls were to try out for football, would there be a decline in toxic masculine behavior or would there be an incline in misogynistic outlooks and opinions?
In regard to girls trying out for McNick’s football team, Head Football Coach Mike Orlando said, “If the student is in the building [and] they are eligible to play [and] are willing to put in the work, then they would be a part of the team.”
Orlando added, “I [would] hope that our guys are quality young men and if a person of the opposite sex [were to be] on our team, I would hope they would treat that [girl] as they treat the other players…If you’re good enough, you’ll play. And that goes for someone [who] is a freshman, senior, male or female.”
Thumbnail courtesy of www.nfl.com