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You Can’t Do It This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     To say I am a walking train wreck is an understatement. You name it, I’ve hurt it: I’ve broken my right wrist; had a break that spiraled down through my right ankle; broken both big toes; jammed almost every finger; partially torn a tendon in my right ankle; wrecked my MCL; fractured my collarbone and broken my right pinky twice. For all my injuries, I have one thing to blame: sports. I’ve played soccer, softball, basketball and baseball, lacrosse and tennis, done cheerleading, and gymnastics, and been on swim, dive and football teams.

My decision to play football came as a result of four little words: You can’t do it. Determined to prove my friends and family wrong, I sought the approval of my father. I failed. According to him, a girl’s job is to cheer from the sidelines as the boys do the hard stuff. But that did not stop me; I knew how to get what I wanted and asked my mother. She agreed. She was the only person who believed in me.

I put on my rib protector, shoulder pads, and helmet feeling nervous about my first practice. After stretching and conditioning, it was time for the “Oakie Drill,” which consists of running at another player and trying not to get annihilated.

“McCarthy and Alexander on the line.” It was my turn. Coach blew the whistle, I held the ball tightly and ran at the best player on the team with all my might. I got destroyed. Practically in tears, I stood up; it was my turn to defend. Coach blew the whistle and the player ran at me. I lowered myself and tried to tackle him.

“Fumble!”

The players yelled as I threw myself on the ball. The players clapped and cheered for me as I came up with the football; my teammates and coaches knew I meant business.

“Nice recovery, McCarthy, except pink socks aren’t allowed on the football field.” I laughed as I handed Coach the ball, ready to try again.

Pre-season flew by and before I knew it, it was the night of our first game. I wore my jersey with pride. Three plays into the game, Coach gave me the call.

“McCarthy, D-end for Donnellan. Calm down and get in there.” I ran out to the defensive huddle.

“Coach wants us in a beagle formation,” I exclaimed.

My teammates laughed, “It’s eagle, Shannon. Ready, break.” Embarrassed, I went to the line and got into my defensive stance. I was going to do this for everyone who said I couldn’t, for the one person who said I could, and for me. The offense hiked the ball and handed it off to the fullback, who came running at me! I hit him as hard as I could and threw myself on the ball.

“Hull ball; recovery on the play by rookie Shannon McCarthy.” I had done it.

My team finished the season with only one loss, but more importantly, I finished the season a better person. I had proved to everyone that football is not just for the guys, that girls can hold their own in the sport. I was the only girl on the team, but that did not stop me from seeking excellence. Unfortunately, that was my only season of football because a softball incident that spring caused the spiraling break down through my ankle.

I still love football and watch the Patriots every Sunday. I’ve inspired a whole group of young girls in my town to play football and there has been at least one on the team every year since I played. Football gave me the opportunity to grow stronger and taught me to get up and keep going regardless of pain. I learned teamwork, respect, and never to give up even when people say, “You can’t do it.”

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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