Next girl up

Female joins freshman football team

photo credit: John Olajimi
Girl power \\ Freshman Nicole Soto holds her own on the freshman football team. “I started playing football because everyone was saying that I couldn’t, that there was no place for females in the sport,” Soto said. “I really wanted to prove them wrong.”

writer: Maggie Volpi, journalism student

She’s in competitive cheerleading, JROTC, select choir and all advanced classes; to most people, though, the most shocking thing about her is that she’s also on the football team.

Freshman Nicole Soto plays for the freshman football team, and is the only female player in the lineup this year.

“I started playing football because everyone was saying that I couldn’t, that there was no place for females in the sport,” Soto said. “I really wanted to prove them wrong.”

At first it was strange to see a girl on the field. I didn’t think she would be able to hold up. After seeing her put in the work, though, it really changed how I saw football. She definitely deserves to be on the team.”

— Chance Stovall, freshman

Soto is the third girl to ever be on the football team at this school, an accomplishment that doesn’t come without its challenges.

“Being a female in a male-dominated sport is really hard at times. You have to earn the team’s respect, it isn’t automatically given to you,” Soto said. “It’s also hard to bond as a team when they aren’t initially accepting of you. It can be lonely.”

Coach BJ Smith, the head freshman football coach, was supportive of Soto’s decision to join.

“My first impressions of her were that she was a good athlete, was very respectful and was very adamant about her goals,” Coach Smith said. “She knew what she was signing up for by being on the team, and she always held herself accountable to that.”

Because of football’s historic reputation as a boys-only activity, the appearance of a girl on the team was surprising to many.

“At first it was strange to see a girl on the field. I didn’t think she would be able to hold up,” Freshman Chance Stovall, one of Soto’s teammates, said. “After seeing her put in the work, though, it really changed how I saw football. She definitely deserves to be on the team.”

As a starter on the offensive line, Soto goes through the same strength and conditioning training as the boys to be able to bring her maximum power to the field, which means spending a lot of time at the school for practice.

“I wake up everyday at 5 for football, and get home at around 6:30 because of my other extracurriculars,” Soto said. “It’s a lot of work, and I honestly don’t know how I have any freetime. After we won our first game was when it really all became worth it for me; the empowerment from that moment just made me want to work even harder.”
Once football season concludes, Soto plans on tackling powerlifting as her next activity, continuing to be a trailblazer for females in sports.