By Griffith Jennings
Football is very much a male dominated sport. The National Football League (NFL) has never seen a female player and there are only a limited amount of female coaches and referees at the professional level.
There have been two female coaches in the NFL, Jennifer Welter and Kathryn Smith. Neither lasted more than one season.
This year at Granada Hills Charter High School (GHC) junior Fatima Aviles is breaking that stigma on the school’s junior varsity (JV) football team.
“It’s pretty fantastic to have a female athlete on the football team. I think Fatima shows great passion and perseverance; her efforts on the field match, if not exceed her peers,” Athletic Director Cristina Scotti said.
By playing on the football team, Aviles is going against the norms of the sport. “The reason I decided to play football was because I just love the sport overall. Not only do I get to have a different experience than others do but I get to have another family,” Aviles said.
Women’s sports are also often highly sexualized. One of the few options for a woman to play at the professional level for sports is the Legends Football League (LFL), formerly known as the Lingerie Football League.
The women in this league wear jerseys cut above the chest and underwear that are more revealing than they are protective of the players safety. The LFL doesn’t focus on football, but rather on the body of the players.
With standards like those set by the LFL, it is difficult for females to garner any respect playing on the gridiron.
However, females on high school football teams have slowly become more accepted in high schools throughout the United States.
“I am getting to know the guys on the team and I am warming up to them just like they are too. Overall it’s been a great experience. So far we all have each others’ backs and are there to support one another,” Aviles said.
After reaching an all time low in the 2008-2009 high school season, girls on football teams have slowly and steadily increased according to National Federation of State High School Associations.
“Over the last few years, there has actually been a slight increase in the number of female athletes [playing] football, particularly at the high school level. I think [Aviles] sets a great example for other female athletes by successfully participating in a male dominated sport,” Scotti said.
The rise of women on football teams has led to more opportunity for them to play at a higher level. Becca Longo was the first female to earn a scholarship at an NCAA Division II school or higher in April 2017.
Ultimately, having females on our high school football team is a step towards more acceptance for women in sports.