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Ponytails and Pigskin

Maddie+Hart+looks+on+from+the+sidelines+during+the+team%27s+opening+game+loss+to+Westminster+Academy+on++August+31+at+the+Upper+School.
Maddie Hart looks on from the sidelines during the team's opening game loss to Westminster Academy on  August 31 at the Upper School.

Maddie Hart looks on from the sidelines during the team's opening game loss to Westminster Academy on August 31 at the Upper School.

Mr. Crisafi

Mr. Crisafi

Maddie Hart looks on from the sidelines during the team's opening game loss to Westminster Academy on August 31 at the Upper School.

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Women are running for president, serving on the front lines in the military, and now they are lining up on the gridiron. At least, that’s the case for eighth graders Madeline Hart and Emma Shirzad who have decided to join the seventh/eighth-grade football team this year. They are the first girls in the history of The Benjamin Middle School to be on the football team according to Mr. David Parks, the middle school equipment manager and varsity football special teams coach. However, their reasons for joining were quite different. “Coach Keller asked me [to come out],” said Shirzad, who, because of her soccer skills, was coveted by the coaches to be the team’s kicker. “My dad wanted me to [join the team], of course, because my brother never played football,” continued Shirzad. Hart, the team’s offensive tackle, was motivated to try out because some people told her she would never make the team. “I joined because too many people told me that I couldn’t, and not just students, either; adults, too.” “Before this I really didn’t know anything about football,” she admitted. “I didn’t even know how to play the game.” That wasn’t going to stop the coaches putting the girls through their paces, though.

“We treat them like one of the guys” said Coach Keller, the team’s head coach. This means Hart and Shirzad participate in the same warm-ups, drills, and activities in practices. “You can’t treat them differently, it doesn’t change the game at all, [and] it is still fun,” said seventh grader Jacob Steinger, the team’s center.

In fact, the only difference is where the girls change into their uniforms: they use the girls’ locker room. The uniforms, though, may be the most challenging aspect for the girls. “I didn’t know how to put on the pads,” said Shirzad, “so I felt embarrassed and awkward.” However, she also says that it’s been “fun, interesting, and different” because joining the team has pushed her “out of my comfort zone because I’m not used to being in full padding and being around guys all the time.” Hart feels the same way. “It’s been a blast,” she said. “It’s a new and different experience and the boys have been great.”

Emma Shirzad, with Will Mahon as the holder, attempts an extra point against Pine Crest Fort Lauderdale on September 6.

Mr. Crisafi
Emma Shirzad, with Will Mahon as the holder, attempts an extra point against Pine Crest Fort Lauderdale on September 6.

In terms of kicking, Shirzad was surprised how similar kicking a football is when compared to kicking a soccer ball. “I thought it would be a lot different, but it’s not,” she said. “The football is a little off the ground, so I kicked the tee at first. It really hurt.”

And how do the faculty feel about these girls playing rough? “I think it’s okay for everyone to have an opportunity to try,” said seventh-grade science teacher Mrs. Stephanie Oster. The first-year faculty member at TBS has some experience with male athletics as she served as an interpreter for a deaf student who was a member of the boys’ wrestling team at Fernwood Avenue Middle School in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, a school where Oster taught for 12 years. “We all have a role to play, and everybody, whether male or female, has limitations, [but] we all [also] excel in certain areas.”

The students, both boys and girls, seem to be supportive as well. “I think that it is okay for the girls to be playing with the boys as long as they do their part and participate in the activities,” said seventh grader Joey Palomba. “I think girls are capable of what men can do.” Added fellow seventh grader Catherine Schenk, “I think anyone should be able to play football. It doesn’t matter if they are a boy or a girl.”

So far so good for the first girls to play TBS football. “My goals for the season are to keep up, and not let my team down,” said Hart, and although the season is still young, it looks like mission accomplished.

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “Ponytails and Pigskin”

  1. Alexander Nussbaum on September 13th, 2016 10:52 am

    I think I did a great job

    [Reply]

  2. Tre Williams on September 13th, 2016 4:13 pm

    nice zander great job

    [Reply]

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




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