In seventh grade, standing 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighing 100 pounds soaking wet, I proudly declared to my parents that I would be playing junior high football. Of course, it took them about five minutes to shut that down, citing the danger of the sport. I cried gender inequality, but they didn’t let my brother play either, so that was the end of the football discussion in my household.
It didn’t stop my love of the game, however. In high school, I played in the annual homecoming Powder Puff football game, and mourned the fact that it was only two-hand touch, and not tackle. I stole my own pair of cleats from the junior high lost and found bin that I still own to this day.
In fact, I wore them at Gonzaga, playing running back for Coughlin in the first female Bulldog Bowl. We lost, but I almost scored a touchdown and wore a face full of viking-inspired black makeup. So yeah, football has a special place in my heart.
When I saw the news that Carli Lloyd, the captain of the U.S. women’s national soccer team, had received serious offers from NFL teams to play as a kicker, I was absolutely overjoyed. While women have tried to play football in some capacity for many years, at high school or collegiate levels, there has never been a woman in the NFL.
But I saw the video. I’ve seen the kick that went viral. Of course Lloyd knows her way around a soccer ball (hopefully we all saw the World Cup), but I never could have predicted the absolute ease with which she kicked a 55-yard field goal at a Philadelphia Eagles practice in late August. Watching it, there was no doubt in my mind that I could be watching the potential first female NFL player.
Some critics might say that football is a man’s sport, rooted in masculinity and violence. Back in high school, I heard many times that women couldn’t handle it, that they looked best cheerleading on the sidelines in short skirts.
On the rare occasion, a woman managed to make a high school or junior high team from an opposing school, it wasn’t rare to hear boys talk about wanting to target her. They felt threatened by the presence of a woman in what they deemed a “man’s place.”
I think if a woman’s good enough to hold her own, why not let her play?
Kicking is not an easy thing. How many times have you watched your team gear up to take the field goal that could win the whole thing, only for the kicker to veer left by a few feet. It’s heart-breaking. Personally, I’d feel much more confident with a person like Carli Lloyd kicking for my team. That woman has played under extreme pressure for much of her career, in situations like World Cup games, and has always performed well.
Though she turned down the initial offers, citing her busy schedule, Lloyd also said she’d be a fool not to consider them in the future. Of course, there would be obstacles. She’s 37 years old, and most players in the NFL don’t last that long (although kickers are a different situation). She’s also unaccustomed to suiting up and kicking in pads, which could change things. Finally, there’s always the chance she could take a hard hit.
But despite all the challenges, I’d love to see the first woman in the NFL, breaking down the barriers and the pigskin ceiling. It’s a grueling sport that comes with it’s own set of problems (head injury cover-ups, domestic and sexual abuse, etc.) but I can only imagine what it would have been like as a young girl to turn on the TV and seeing a woman playing football professionally.