I am coaching my first flag football team this summer. It’s my first coaching gig. Yep. I’m a woman coaching 7 boys in the game of football. Seem weird? It didn’t to my 11 year old nephew. When I talked to my nephew about coaching his team, he was very excited! He also thought it was a co-ed team, because it is a co-ed league, and he hoped there’d be girls playing. So far, however, I’ve only seen boys on the teams. It makes me sad. These are 11-14 year olds learning the basics of the game – passing, running, and defense (which is flag pulling). There’s absolutely no reason girls can’t play this version of football. So what if they can’t play later in life…oh wait…they can!
In early June, Shelley Osborne of Indiana committed to playing football at Campbellsville University in Ohio, and not as a kicker like a few other women before her, but as a defensive back. According to sbnation.com, Osborne has played several defensive positions in both JV and Varsity games.
Personally, I think this is fantastic. You go girl! While I haven’t heard a lot of reaction to this yet in the media, I did get a response to a social media post I made. A friend said she would hesitate to teach her son to hit a girl. I completely respect that I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a parent talking to your son about taking on a female defensive player, but I do have thoughts. First, I don’t think we should teach anyone to “hit” another person ever. It should be very clear to athletes that it is tackling, not hitting, and it is only appropriate on the field, not off. Second, if a girl / woman is on the field, then she is fully aware, prepared, and trained to tackle and be tackled. Third, not having girls/women on the field hasn’t exactly stopped violence against women by their athletic mates. I wonder if having women as co-competitors would actually teach men that women are equals, not subordinates in life, and perhaps impact the mentality that leads to abuse toward women.
There is definitely more to come on the topic of women playing football, especially if Osborne is successful and, if perhaps, other young women follow in her footsteps. I am hopeful that more and more girls and women will embrace the sport beyond being fans and cheerleaders; there’s nothing wrong with being a fan or a cheerleader, but girls and women shouldn’t limit themselves. I’m not saying women should be in the NFL yet, but participation in youth leagues, coaching, refereeing – ways that other girls and women have embraced the sport – should no longer be seen as a man’s world.