Female athlete kicking down gender barriers


Caroline Cooney

Junior Sarah Meyerl kicks a field goal while wearing the JC football pads. Meyerl aspires to play football her senior year and inspire young girls to play the sports they want regardless of gender.

Junior Sarah Meyerl replays the steps to her formation as she stares at the yellow flagpoles towering over her. Step back, over two, and kick. She admires the ball as it crosses the plane and smiles. She finally did it.

Meyerl’s interest in playing football was sparked at the end of sophomore year but developed more at the beginning of junior year. “Recently, there was a female kicker who made her first field goal in college, and I think she was one of the first female kickers in that college’s history. When I saw it, it made me want to do exactly this even more,” Meyerl said.

Once Meyerl became interested, she had to talk to head coach Keith Rawlings, Athletic Director Steve Teter, and research the MIAA.  At first she thought people would flat out tell her no and was surprised when she found out it was allowed.  

“[Rawlings] surprisingly said that if I’m good enough, then I’ll make the team. If not, maybe JV or maybe I’ll stand on the sidelines and won’t play at all,” Meyerl said.

According to the MIAA rules, “Female student athletes at co-ed member schools will be allowed to participate on MIAA sanctioned interscholastic athletic teams in any sport where a similar team is not available to them in the same sport.” It continues to clarify that if the school offers a compatible sport for females in any season then they are not allowed to play on the men’s team.

In addition, Title IX of the education amendments was installed in 1972. This states that no student athlete shall be at a disadvantage at any time athletically or academically on the basis of their gender in a federally funded institution.

The one thing I heard a lot was, ‘I hate football, but if you were playing, I would come and watch’”

— Junior Sarah Meyerl

“[If a girl wanted to play] we would figure out why they feel it’s needed and why the gender compatable sport is not satisfactory, then we would talk to the student’s parents, and finally for the student to play, they would need the league’s approval,” Teter said.

Although Meyerl has not definitely decided to try out for the football team next year, this raised the issue of whether girls should play or not.

Current Earth Science teacher and former assistant coach Timothy Perry believes that females should not play male sports due to the physical differences that can lead to potential injuries. According to Perry, each gender is anatomically different in ways regarding to our “muscles mass, physical size and strength, and the capacity to endure the rigors of the sport.”

“That’s not to say girls aren’t tough enough […] or can’t do it, but in the context of the sport and the context of how you play, I think that there is a huge gap in the average person, girl or boy,” Perry said.

However, Meyerl has heard positive feedback from students who have heard about her interest in playing for the team. “The one thing I heard a lot was, ‘I hate football, but if you were playing, I would come and watch,’” Meyerl said.

Freshman Olivia Webster, who played on a baseball team with one other girl when she was younger, agrees with Meyerl and encourages it. “Everyone can play what they want to play. If they feel like they can play football, then have at it,” Webster said. She also believes that it will positively impact the school and give female students more confidence knowing they can play a predominantly male sport.

Senior captain Damon Lloyd is also open to having a girl join the team. “I encourage it and support it, but just because she’s a girl doesn’t mean she can be taken lightly. She’s still a player on the team,” Lloyd said.

According to Meyerl, Perry told her that if she decided to play next year and needed help to get ready for the season to come to him for help. “I would have to do all the summer workouts with the guys. I would have to do all the tryouts at the beginning of the season and then go to every single practice,” Meyerl said.

Meyerl believes that having a female on the football team represents diversity in sports worldwide and would bring a bigger crowd that would amp up the spirit. “I’ve always thought it would be cool to play. A girl playing football – that doesn’t really happen often,” Meyerl said. “I want to be known as that person.”

Caroline Cooney is an In-Focus Editor for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.