What Playing Football as a Girl Taught Me

Updated on June 1, 2018
Katherine McCabe profile image

I am an 18 year old aspiring writer soon to be attending University of California, Santa Barbara.

This story starts in a sea of Nike hats and bulky shoulders. The gym emanates a sticky atmosphere of sweat and testosterone. A man with a large, manicured beard hands out papers to everyone in the room. Everyone, that is, except me.

“Miss…” he looks at me apologetically. “The cheerleading meeting was on Wednesday.”

“Um, I’m actually here for the football meeting,” I say timidly, attempting to put on a brave smile as the swath of teenage boys turn their attention towards me. The bearded man glances at me skeptically and hands me a paper.


Me, circa 2014
Me, circa 2014

“Katherine!” I heard someone call my name after the meeting ended. “Why’d you wear lipstick to a football meeting? It’s a football meeting. Come on,” the boy scoffed at me.

My lips, painted a deep crimson, began to quiver as I fought back tears. I was hardly the quintessential football player. Even female football players were thought of as big and masculine; girls who abhorred the color pink and condemned the thought of ever wearing cosmetics. 5’4, 120 pounds, and glittery eyelids: I definitely wasn’t the kind of person you’d expect to see suited up in a helmet.


......not a cheerleader, shut up.

“Aw, is that your boyfriend’s jersey?”

“How long have you been a cheerleader?”

“Oh! Well you must be the kicker, then.”

I didn’t mind it at first, but in the three years I played, I grew weary of people constantly assuming that the girl wearing football pads wasn’t a real football player.

What’s the best skill a player can have? ESPN analysts would argue tackling technique or speed, but in my case, it was resilience. I never gave up, not just in the sense that I wouldn’t stop running during conditioning, or skip the last reps lifting weights. I had to retain a certain mental stamina. I spent every team dinner, every bus ride, every trip to the water cooler alone. I was part of the team, but I wasn’t treated that way.

This is not to say that no one supported me. My friends, family, and team all cheered me on and told me how brave I was. Encouragement wasn’t unwelcome, but it felt a little patronizing. How could my coach tell me I was such a good player when he seldom put me in the game? How could my teammates say they believed in me when they refused to tackle me in drills? I didn’t ask for special treatment.


I dreaded going to practice but I hated leaving it.

And so I found my gangly 14 year old self learning a skill far more useful than a crack block. The arduous hours running under the California sun instilled in me a rigorous work ethic I now carry with pride. This disposition is accompanied by the result of the tremendous personal growth expedited by my years in a jersey and shoulder pads. Few people believed I was capable. There were people on my team who wanted me gone, who thought I was a joke, who thought I was incompetent no matter how many passes I caught. To make it through an entire season of this and still want to come back the next year is an accomplishment I still take pride in. I knew a few other girls who played, but none who finished a single season. I’ve learned to pursue my passions fearlessly.


"my gangly 14 year old self".... everyone was awkward in middle school, right?

Despite the hardships, I loved every minute of it. My teammates, regardless of their flaws, were well meaning and some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. I got the chance to play in the Ben Ali Shriners all star game, and fundraise $720 for the Shriners Children’s hospital. I made history as the first girl to play football at my high school. Every second of grueling conditioning, every pang of soreness afterwards, every bruise and scrape, even the sexist remarks—none of this mattered to me, because I was doing something I loved. All while wearing some fabulous lipstick.

© 2018 Katherine McCabe

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, letterpile.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://letterpile.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)