If your school offered a girl’s football team, would you play?

By Monica Maeng, 15, Van Nuys HS
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Photo by Monica Maeng, 15, Van Nuys HS

Football is a tough, manly sport, but these days the Van Nuys High School football team has been getting a feminine touch. This year two Asian girls made the team, but it has not been all fun and games for Caroline Baek,15, and Stephanie Yun,14.

Football practice starts at 3:30 p.m. everyday after-school and is two-and-a-half hours long. It starts with warm-ups, then plays, drills, and more plays, Caroline said.

Football takes up a lot of time, and practice is hard, said Stephanie.

Girls on football teams don’t get to play quarterback or other star roles because they aren’t physically able to beat out the guys. They can play tailback, which is a good position, said Coach Bobby Mesa. But he wouldn’t have a girl play quarterback or another important position during a game. Last year Mesa had a girl on the team.

"I’m not sure they can take being hit by 270- or 250-pound defensive linemen. Last year, the senior was defensive lineman, but she was tougher than the girls I have now, so I have the girls this year playing receiver. I wouldn’t want my daughter to be quarterback. I wouldn’t want her holding the ball, period," Coach Mesa said.

Juggling both football and academics can be very difficult and even frustrating at times, but Stephanie has been sticking with the sport. Caroline, on the other hand, has since left the team because practice became very time-consuming.

"It was too hard for her. Football is very difficult, and it was too much for her. It was too much work," Coach Mesa said.

Originally Caroline and Stephanie joined the team because they love football.

"I love football. Caroline was going to play on the team, so I thought this was my chance to play football because I didn’t want to do it alone. I’ve liked football since elementary school, and I’ve played flag football before in school but not formally on a school team," Stephanie said.

The girls on the team say the guys are serious about the game but not so serious about tackling them. The guys said the coach wants them to go harder on the girls but they don’t.

"Coach wants the guys to go harder like they would with the other guys, but the guys are nicer," Stephanie said.

When I asked the guys the same question, some said that they don’t treat the girls any differently.

"I don’t treat them any differently. They’re to be treated as guys. They’re playing a man’s sport," said David Lopez, 15.

Some guys go easier on them

But some of the guys still think it’s pretty awkward playing with girls.

"What’s the point of treating them differently, but I kind of do. Yeah, because they’re girls. They don’t seem as tough as guys do," said Matthew Pak, 15.

Some players think that it’s great as long as they win the game, and others think it’s great because most girls aren’t tough enough for the game. Still others don’t care either way.
"It’s just playing football. I don’t like it, and I don’t not like it with them there," said Jeremiah Schwab, 15.

Having girls on the team encourages others to try out. This year three girls tried out. Stephanie and Caroline were already on the team, when their friend, Ann Kim, also tried out. But she couldn’t find time for the team because she had dance classes.

But no matter how many girls stay on the team, it’s not a selling point with the crowds. Just their parents, Coach Mesa said.

"Their parents will show, but as a school, no, because football is not a girls’ sport. I don’t know if the girls will be able to keep up. Last year, the senior didn’t get a whole lot of playing time. People come to see tackling, and it’s the boys that they come to see," Coach Mesa said.

Tailback position or not, I wouldn’t try out for the team. So I decided to ask around school to see what others thought about it. Most of the girls at school wouldn’t try out for the team, but most of the guys would. So I asked them what they thought about having girls on the football team. Some of the girls thought it was cool because it showed that girls are capable of doing what guys can do.

"I think the girls on the team have talent that they are out there with the guys," said Sandra Carrasco, 15.

And most guys gave mixed reactions to having girls on the team.

"I think it’s OK because some girls are playing already. They might be weaker, but they can be faster," said Daniel Kwak, 15.

With all the time-consuming practices, tackling big guys, and the pressure to win games, football doesn’t seem like a sport someone should just dive into. Coach Mesa offered some suggestions for girls considering trying out for the team.

"Don’t do it. It’s tough. Unless you really love it, don’t do it. Don’t do it just to say you did it. Every practice and game, you can get hurt doing it," Coach Mesa said.

Despite all the different reasons that keep girls from trying out for the football team, the fact that Caroline and Stephanie took the initiative to try out is an admirable feat in my eyes. I think that they have taken the very first step toward equality on the field.