For the first time in 21 years and the second time in South’s history, the varsity football team has a female player. Her name is Elycia Willis. She plays safety, and to her getting all the recognition for joining the team is exciting. “It actually feels pretty cool because bringing it to light that some girls that wanna play football. Showing them that they can, it’s pretty cool.”
Originally, Willis didn’t even want to join the team. “I was actually trying to be a manager, and the coach said ‘we’re not having managers this year,’” she explained. “He was like, ‘the only way you can be part of the team is if you’re on the team and I was gonna join with my friend Maria… she backed out and here I am, only girl on the football team, but I don’t mind. It’s pretty cool.”
“It was a quarter life crisis type thing. I don’t know, it was senior year, I needed something to do,” said Willis on joing the team. “I knew that sports had helped me in the past to keep my grades kind of steady and I also had some friends on the football team.”
On the other hand, head coach Rodney Lossow, does not believe Willis joining the team will have many widespread changes. “Girls have played before at South and at Roosevelt when I was the head coach there. I feel it just means a girl played this year.”
Willis believes she is leading the way for more women to join the team for upcoming years. “I’ve gotten a lot of comments about how it’s really cool, and all these other girls saying they didn’t know girls could even join the fooball team,” she said. “They say they’re probably gonna join next year.”
Quinnlan Woodberry stated his belief on why females so rarely join: “Mainly because they think that it’s a guy sport or something like that and I think they are afraid to try because it’s mainly a male sport.”
In the history of the varsity football team there has only been 2 members that have been female, one this year (Elycia Willis) and one other in the 1995-1996 school year named Renee Pewaush.
However, Willis has also experienced some controversy: “One time while I was out on the field someone was like ‘woah is that a girl?!’ and I said ‘uh yes’ … It’s usually not too bad. I definitely get more looks.”
Senior and varsity football player Michael Werner described his perspective on the rarity of female football players: “It’s pretty rare for a girl to be on the team. I don’t think it necessarily means they wouldn’t make it on, because if any female wanted to they could be able to make it onto the team, just because of the numbers of the team, so it definitely is rare for a girl to be on the team.”
Werner elaborated on how exactly students can join the team: “If you’re at South, at least you have to sign up, show interest and make it to practice, like I said before because of our numbers we’re kind of limited in what choice we have, so if you show up we’re not really going to cut you because of the numbers of the team.”
“It’s really up to her if she wants attention but to me it’s just like she’s another person on the team, it doesn’t matter to me that she’s a girl, just as long as she’s part of the team,” said Woodberry.
Werner shares this belief: “I mean if it’s definitely nice and everything that she made the team, but I don’t think too much attention should be called to it… I don’t think it should be something special, it’s nice that she made the team and all, but she’s just another player.”
Lossow believes that joining high school sports is important for any student. “I believe that all of athletics should receive attention. In athletics you have individuals that are willing to commit hours after school and still maintain your grades. I believe athletics betters the school along with all the other extra curricular activities i.e. the arts.”
Sports can be a very important part of the high school experience that can lead to new experiences, friends and even college scholarships, and as there have only been two female varsity football players it is evident that football is a very male dominated sport, this leaves a significant portion of the population feeling excluded from participating in football. With Willis joining the team this year there is a chance that this may change.