Closing the gap: Freshmen girls tackle football

By Alexis Costas, Staff Reporter

Rain or shine, it’s not unusual to see Conestoga football players working hard to perfect their offensive and defensive lines hours after the school day is over. Some people may be surprised to see both boys and girls taking the field to practice their plays, but to freshmen football team members Ella Bass and Brooke Braslow, it’s nothing new.

For Bass and Braslow, who play safety/wide receiver and quarterback respectively, athletics have always been part of the daily routine. The two are definitely no strangers to sports: Braslow plays basketball and lacrosse, and Bass has passionately played softball for years. However, while both have played football in the past for their middle schools’ unlimited teams, as well as the Conestoga Generals in Braslow’s case, this is their first time playing the sport together on a team. It’s not easy being the only female players on the field, especially in a male-dominated sport like football, but the girls are more than up to the challenge.

“It’s tough. We work a lot harder than we did (before playing for Conestoga),” Bass said, “but I like it. I like having to push myself harder.”  

Aside from the increased practices, some of the differences the girls say they’ve had to adapt to this year are keeping track of jerseys and equipment, talking more with coaches and playing with/against boys who are stronger and/or larger than them physically.

Like the rest of the team, the two attend daily practices and weekly games. Although an unfortunate finger injury is currently keeping Bass off the field, she goes to all practices and games to learn the team’s strategies and support her fellow players, including Braslow.

While the girls occasionally feel that their teammates make a point of going easy or hard on them because of their gender, for the most part they fit right in among the male players.

Girls playing “doesn’t make a difference to the sport. It’s still the same game,” said Karan Kang, wide receiver and free safety for the freshman football team.

Freshman football coach Aaron Lockard, a strong believer in the importance of teamwork, feels that there are unique benefits to having a mixed-gender team. 

“Sports, like football, are important for students to build teamwork and leadership skills while overcoming physical and mental challenges. Every good team finds a way to build each other up and embrace the positive characteristics each player brings to the table,” Lockard said.

Of course, there are challenges besides physical ones that the girls have had to deal with. Both say they have dealt with unfair bias from opposing players, and even other coaches.

 “A couple years ago, there was this one coach who completely pointed me out,” Braslow said. “He said, ‘That is a girl, you have to go hit her harder, you have to go hunt her down, take her out of the game.’”

Sometimes, the players they go up against try to bother them even without a coach’s direction.

“It’s harder in game situations. Guys see your hair and they like to pull at it. That’s not fun, but you keep going,” Bass said.

The two had similar sentiments on the importance of self-confidence for other girls who are considering playing male-dominated sports such as football.

“I would say, just put yourself out there. Just be you. Even though the guys might be stronger or faster than you, just ignore that and be your own person,” Braslow said.

Considering the adversities the girls face, one may wonder what makes playing a male-dominated sport as a female worth it, but both are passionate in their belief that physical, mental and social challenges should never stand in someone’s way of doing what they love.

“If you like to play a sport, go for it. Who cares what you are off the field? You’re all people at the end of the day,” Bass said. “If you want to play football, no one should be able to stop you from doing that.”

Both Bass and Braslow are open to the possibility of playing football in college and plan to continue playing the sport for ’Stoga.