Fall has arrived and with it brings an instant wave of nostalgia and memories for so many families, and a huge part of that feeling is football! There really isn’t anything like the game of football and how it brings families and communities together – the fans, the tailgating, the cheers, the popcorn in the bleachers, the Friday night lights!
That’s how the Harris family remembers the game of football, remembering when their kids’ played on their high school football team, and now, the youngest sibling carrying on the tradition by playing flag football with his fellow kindergarten friends.
Making History as the First Girl to Play Football at One Kansas High School
When asked how football made an impact on their family, Maricar Harris said football was never on their family’s radar at first. But having both her high schoolers play on the same team really created a fondness for football, especially the togetherness it brought for their family, friends, and school community! A big reason for that sense of camaraderie and support was because the Harris family made school history – their daughter was the first girl to play on the boys high school football team.
And of course many memories stem from those special years she played on the varsity team.
How it Began
Bekah played soccer in middle school and was really quite good, her mom recalls. One day as she watched her school’s football team practice and mentioned to her mom they didn’t have a kicker. “They seriously have to run after every touchdown?”, Bekah recalled. So she set up a time to meet with the coach, showed him her kick, and the rest is history. She signed on to play the following year.
Football is for the Girls (Too)
When it came time to play high school football, Bekah was incredibly nervous.
But she felt tremendous support by the coaching staff and by the male players around her.
Sure, there were times when other teams’ players would give her a side eye or a weird look, and she always knew it was because she had her signature long braids sticking out from the bottom of her helmet. However, she never felt anything but camaraderie from her male teammates. She recalls no special treatment or perks simply because she was a girl. “It was truly amazing!”, she said.
She sometimes feels like girl athletes at all levels of play are treated differently than male athletes with “softer coaching”, less recognition, worse conditions of play- so it was nice to get her personal, positive experience in male-dominated sports and girls’ sports.
Creating Lifelong Lessons & Memories
She will forever cherish the memories from football: her first field goal, her last field goal, the time spent on the sidelines, getting hyped up with the team, praying before games, locker room experiences, and everything in between. And one of her greatest memories that will always stick with her was when she kicked the game-winning field goal against one of their school’s rivals!
The biggest lesson she learned from football was mental toughness. Every time she stepped onto the field, she knew she was going to be the shortest player, the undersized player, the one that stood out in the crowd. But she learned to walk confidently and not allow others’ perceptions of her as an athlete in football to impact her effort or performance.
“The grit and mental toughness I learned from football transferred over to the other sports I played, as well as life in general“, Bekah said. “I am beyond thankful for football, and it’s a pretty cool flex in college to say I played high school football!”