The Courage of the Female Football Player

TAGS: football practice, female HS football player, Amy Wattles, football

To The Freshman Girl Playing HS Football,

Since the first day of football practice, I have been watching you. Deep down inside, I’ve been secretly cheering for your success. Each day I made a point to look for you to make sure you showed up again. You have never disappointed me and you're still there.

It takes a strong(her) attitude to get out on the field with adolescent boys and STAY there. It takes guts and confidence and I admire you. Your drive and determination remind me of myself and many other female strength athletes who find homes in male dominated weight rooms.

All summer long you have gotten up early and showed up ready to work, just like every other player on the team. You haven’t asked for exceptions, a way out, or for things to be made easier because you’re female. You have braved the comments, side conversations and the reality that you have to work harder than most of the boys on the team for recognition. You are still there; you have passed these tests.

I commend you for having thick skin and sticking with your decision to cross this boundary. Playing on a youth recreation team is entirely different than playing on a high school football team — and you are doing it!

There is some wisdom that might be helpful to you, and I feel compelled to share what I can.

Always remember that you teach people how to treat you. Your actions alone will determine if your teammates and opponents treat you as a competent equal or as a token player trying to make a gender-rights statement.

Whatever you do, do NOT let them see you cry. EVER! There will be tears of pain, joy and frustration. Save those tears for off the field and out of the gym when you are alone with your family, girlfriends or loved ones. Whether fair or not, your tears will be seen as a weakness and inadvertently send a message that you are not strong enough to be there. You are! You have shown it all summer. Carry the momentum forward.Football female helmet amy wattles 081214

Do NOT expect that the rules should be different for you because you are female. Players get starting positions and continue playing based on merit, not out of fear or retaliation for discriminating against a female on the team. Earn your spot like everyone else out there. Then work hard to keep it.

Keep your head held high. It will take time to develop that camaraderie with your teammates, but it will happen. It will happen as your teammates realize you are serious, capable, and willing to work as hard as anyone else out on that field.

When you show up to practice, you are dressed appropriately and ready to work. I salute you for not making yourself an object of attention or distraction for the boys.

Please understand that you’re playing with adolescent boys. Any negativity they might throw your way is solely based on their own weaknesses and insecurities. You are challenging who they are and their own fears as they start down the path of being men. Please don’t hold it against them for too long. Your presence on the team is making a life long impact on them but they will likely never tell you that.

Although the season has not officially started, you are almost to the half way mark. When you go back to school, don’t tolerate any negativity from your friends and classmates. The biggest backlash may be from those you consider friends. Girls are far more negative, gossipy and exclusionary than boys. Don’t get sucked into it. Keep doing your thing. Whatever you do, please don’t cave into the peer pressure and quit.

For whatever it’s worth, I am proud of you. I am silently cheering for you from the sidelines right now. I look forward to watching you on the field so I can cheer at the top of my lungs.

You got this. Ignore anyone who tells you this is anything other than a wonderful and awesome experience for you and your teammates. This is one small milestone for you to develop confidence with pushing boundaries, challenging the norm, and following your own strong(her) dream.

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