One of the Guys This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

January 4, 2012
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I have always loved football. I started playing in third grade on a recreation center flag football team. There were several girls on each team so it was not unusual. I continued to play through the sixth grade, but by then, only three girls were playing. In seventh grade, I coached a third and fourth grade team. Then, at the end of seventh grade, they announced a meeting for people interested in playing football the following year. Since I had really missed playing the year before, I decided I would go to the meeting.

The day before the meeting I was extremely nervous and a little scared about what everyone would say, or how they'd react to my playing football. After school, I walked down the hall to the meeting. When I looked in the window, I saw over 60 guys. My stomach dropped; I was so nervous and intimidated that I felt like being sick. I opened the door, looked around and sat down. I tried to ignore the comments and snickers, but I could hear them saying how stupid I was to be there and to think I could play. I wanted to crawl under the desk, but it would have been too humiliating to walk out. I didn't want them to think they could make me give up something I loved.

Somehow I got through that meeting and the next few weeks of rude comments and laughs by guys who thought I shouldn't play. But as the first day of practice approached, I started getting nervous. I really didn't want to be there because I felt so uncomfortable, but by now it was too late to turn back. I did love the game, so I figured I could make the best of it. The more practices we had, the more comfortable I was. My coach was great. He gave me a fair chance and after a while, the guys got used to me playing. The ones who didn't want me there realized they couldn't make me quit. I still felt a little awkward being the only girl.

When we got into the season and played other teams, they were shocked to find a girl out there with them. Some wouldn't hit me; others thought they could teach me a lesson, so they'd hit me harder. Once they found I could hit just as hard, they gave up and played. By the middle of the season, I was having a lot of fun. My feelings of intimidation were gone and I liked playing with my team.

At the end of the season in a game against a private boys' school, I went to tackle this kid and one of his teammates hit me to try to stop the tackle. He landed on my knee and brought me down with him. Although my knee didn't hurt as I lay there, once I got up, it wobbled and the tears started to roll down my cheeks. My coach and the referees didn't realize how badly I was hurt, so play continued. I did the best I could from a kneeling position. Then it was over. A few people helped me off the field.

Once we got home, my mom took me to the hospital where I had x-rays taken, and they put me in a brace and crutches. I found out I had torn ligaments. My football career was over. The local newspaper wrote a story about me being the only girl in the town's history to play tackle football.

I loved playing football and I love the game. My coach, parents and teammates were all terrific. It was a great experience and I'm glad I did it, but I don't think I could go through it again.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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