Play like a Girl

Sophomore tackles stereotypes on and off football field

Play+like+a+Girl

Photo courtesy of Thalia Smith

Bri Bady, Staff Writer

While the sport

of American

football is maledominated,

sophomore and JV football player

Thalia Smith hopes to change

that. Smith began playing flag

football when she was five years

old, started tackle football in her

middle school years, and hopes to

continue throughout high school.

“Ever since I was a little

girl, I loved football,” Smith said.

“I always saw the boys playing it

and I wanted to play as well.”

Smith admits that she does

not feel any less a part of the team

than the boys despite being the

only girl.

“I’m friends with the guys

and I see them all the time, so

I don’t really miss out on team

bonding,” Smith said.

While her teammates

are supportive of her, she often

encounters disapproval from

rivals and faces certain challenges

from it.

“A lot of the time, if the

guys on the other team find out

that I’m a girl, they’ll get mad

that I’m playing and tell their

teammates to go extra hard on

me,” Smith said. “Players would

purposely try to get me hurt.”

Smith doesn’t expect to be

treated differently because she’s

a girl and is always prepared for

pain to be part of the game.

“When JV scrimmages

varsity, I have to play on the

varsity offense and a few times

I’ve had some of the really big

dudes lay me out,” Smith said.

“Even though I’d get hurt, I don’t

really mind because it shows that

they’re not going any easier on

me. Usually the boys who tackle

me apologize after, but I always

tell them that I joined football

to play and I understand that

it’s going to hurt sometimes.”

During drills, Smith’s

team helps uphold her wish

of not being seen as weaker

by practicing as they normally

would with their other male

peers.

“My teammates know

not to go easier on me, so they

rarely do,” Smith said. “Recently

we got a new guy on varsity and

I had to go against him and he

tackled me hard. I wasn’t really

expecting it, but I just dealt with

it.”

When it’s time to go out

for their games, Smith often gets

different reactions. Smith says

it’s usually other girls around her

age who have the most positive

reaction.

“It’s really the parents and

other adults who make it a big

deal,” Smith said. “One time I

heard one guy from the team we

were playing ask, ‘Who’s the dude

with the long hair?’ and to me

that was funny. When we have

to shake each others’ hands after

games, they usually just stare at

me.”

Smith hopes to spread

words of encouragement and be

a role model for other young girls

who are interested in playing

football. She left middle school

as the only girl on her team, then

found out the next year that 4

girls joined after she left.

“I thought that was just the

coolest thing, being able to inspire

them,”

Smith

said.