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Tackling Stereotypes: Middle Schooler Playing the Line

Will Aubrey

  Thirty years ago college and professional football teams began offering classes for women so that they could learn to appreciate the game their husbands loved. Now, increasingly, girls are playing the game themselves.


 At a time when the number of kids playing the sport is declining, there has been a sharp increase in the number of girls who play. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, last year nearly 2,000 girls played high school football, more than double the number of participants in 2009.

 And, for what may be the first time in school history, Calloway County Middle School has a girl on its 7thgrade football team who isn’t a kicker. Her name is BrenyaAllred. She's 5'4” and weighs 115 pound. And she likes to hit.

 “It’s a fun thing to do. It’s definitely anger and stress relieving, being able to run into someone and hit them and tackle them,” she said. “And you’re not carrying the ball so you don’t get hit. You get to hit people and that’s one of my favorite things to do.”

 Oddly though, Brenya had to learn to like football.

 “When I was younger I never really wanted to watch football,” she said. “We always went to the Murray State games and it was just – Mom, can we go get a funnel cake? Mom, when is it over? Is it halftime yet? Can we go home?

 “And then I started getting curious. And I was just like, what’s that person doing? How do you do that? What position is that? So, once I started learning it I got to loving it even more and more and I decided that I wanted to start playing it.”

 While more and more girls are playing football, head coach Shawn Thompson says this is a first for Calloway Middle School.

 “I think this is my fourth year here, so this is my first time and I’ve talked to coach Josh Smith, who has done it before and coach Troy Webb who has done it before and neither of them really said that they’ve had a girl to play a position,” Thompson said.

 Some people might call Brenya a pioneer, but to her teammates she’s just a Laker. After all, she's been playing with the boys since third grade.

 “Well, at first it was a little weird for them, having a girl on the team,” she said. “But, once they got to know me a little better and once they got used to the fact that there was a girl on their team they’re really good about it. They started treating me like I was just part of the football team. Part of their football family.”

 Teammate Dylan Schroader says he's all for it.

 “It gives girls confidence in themselves,” he said. “It shows that girls can actually do boy things. And it's just overall, a great thing.”

 Sometimes, opposing players underestimate Brenya; but they soon learn not to do that.

 “They’re just very - Oh that’s fine. It’s easy. I can just take her out,” she said. “And then they’re surprised when like they get hit by me and they're just like - Oh well I wasn’t expecting that.”

 Brenya’s mother, Tracy Allred understands that there's always a risk of injury, for boys and girls. It's a contact sport, after all. But she says she was thrilled when her daughter told her she wanted to play football.

 “I like her to think that she can do whatever she wants to do,” Allred said. “And she had developed a real love for football so I was happy that she could do something that she loved.”

 With only 12 to 13 kids on the team Brenya should see plenty of time on the field. But she's also on the volleyball team and she is in the band. So, she’s not sure whether she’ll play football once she gets to high school.

Thirty years ago college and professional football teams began offering classes for women so that they could learn to appreciate the game their husbands loved. Now, increasingly, girls are playing the game themselves. Will Aubrey has this story of one Calloway County middle schooler who's hitting the field this week.

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