By ANNE WOOD
Most girls go through a tomboy phase at some point in their lives, but for Evelyn King, the no-nonsense attitude was not just a phase. Evelyn, a third grader at Crestline Elementary, is no stranger to playing organized sports, including youth football. Prior to joining the football team, she had played soccer, softball, and basketball.
Evelyn viewed football just like any other sport. Why would it be considered out of the ordinary for her to play football? She had no specific agendas when joining the team, she had no point to prove, she simply loved the sport.
“I just love football,” she said. “My older brother has played, and I just wanted to try it.”
Evelyn did not show the slightest bit of concern for being the only girl on the team. When asked if she felt comfortable being the only girl on the team, she responded with a simple shrug, grin, and an “I don’t really care.” Evelyn recounts her favorite memory of playing football as she described scoring a touchdown. To a lot of people, this proved that Evelyn did not need any special attention or accommodations.
Obviously not much of a girly-girl, she had to ask her mother repeatedly over the course of six months for permission to play football. The final selling point for Kimberly King, Evelyn’s mother, were questions she carefully crafted with her father’s help:
“Mom, can a girl be president?” asked Evelyn.
“Yes,” her mother answered.
“Why hasn’t a girl been president yet, then?”
“I don’t know.”
“Is it because boys are better than girls?”
“Can a girl really set her mind on doing what she wants to do?”
“So, Mom, can I play football?”
The reluctant mother changed her no answers to a “we’ll see” and finally told Evelyn the next day that, yes, she could play football.
Her mother was not scared of Evelyn getting hurt, though, because of safety rules put into place at Crestline. One of the most effective rules states that if a player is more than 75 pounds, he or she may not run the ball.
Kimberly King’s main concern was if Evelyn would be ostracized both on and off the field for being the only girl to play football. Evelyn insists, though, that she has kept the same group of friends that she had before she started playing football. No one has treated her any differently. She also enjoys simply being on the team and having fun. Both she and her mother agree that her coaches and teammates treat her like any other player, and with respect.
“I’m so glad we did it,” Kimberly King said. “The reaction has been nothing but positive.” She even says that a few parents of girls, both Evelyn’s age and older, expressed either a regret for not letting their child play or a desire to get their child into the program. It turns out that there was a lot more underlying interest in football from girls than what was thought. Evelyn just happened to be the first one strong enough to pursue her goals.
While the coaches treated Evelyn as just “one of the guys,” she still had her girlish quirks. In the height of the boys-have-cooties phase, Evelyn refused to link arms with her teammates in the huddle.
“It is the one thing she will not do,” her mother said. “Evelyn keeps her arms right by her side.”
Kimberly King is now the football team’s biggest fan.
“I thought initially it would be just the one year,” she said, “but if she wants to continue in future years, I’ll let her.”