The Football Girls

By: Johnny Lamont ’15 and Cynthia Fang ’14

Football is a sport that is as much a part of the culture at Groton as chapel, or sitdown. Along with being an important part of Groton it is also, the most popular sport in the United States. The annual St. Marks football game inspires the team to rally their schoolmates, and the Circle has been home to countless games of touch football. In the long history and tradition of the sport, however, the players have mostly, if not always, been male. The Thirds football team is now an exception to this rule, having welcomed fifth formers Brittani Taylor and Leah Mozzer, as well as fourth formers Anna Cordova and Sashni-Cole Matthews onto their team. Due to the fact that there is no girls football team, and girls must be given equal opportunities in sports due to Title 9, a law passed in 1972, Groton must allow girls to play on the Thirds team. Marcel Romero ’11 was allowed to play JV field hockey due to these same rules. “Usually, I would have auditioned for the play in the fall,” says Brittani Taylor. “This year, though, I wanted to take a leap of faith and try something completely new and a little out of my comfort zone. I never thought that I’d be part of a football team.” Brittany is now a lineman, rather than a thespian, but is enjoying every minute of it. Sashni-Cole Matthews has also participated in the theater program, joining tech last fall. Last winter, she played on JV basketball, where her coaches saw a certain physicality and toughness that is key to the sport of football. In the spring of last year, she ran track and field showing athleticism which has translated well to her position at running back.  “The idea to play football this fall started as a joke,” Sashni says. “When this year really came around, though, we really did join the team, and it’s really a ton of fun.” Leah Mozzer ’14 plays lineman on the team, and loves the challenge of practices. “I know I’m not as strong or fit as a lot of the guys on the team,” says Leah. “Practices are always really challenging, but no one ever lets us cut corners because we’re girls.” Anna Cordova, unlike the other three girls on Thirds football, has previous experience playing the sport of football. She played football before Groton, and during the application process she was encouraged to continue playing at Groton. In third form, Anna started the season playing football, but then switched to tech as her afternoon activity. “I didn’t know many people, and I was still getting used to the way the school worked,” she explained. “I decided that it would be better to just do tech my first term here.” However, this year, Anna is back on the football field, playing alongside her friends, teaching them the ins and outs of the game, and spreading the enthusiasm for the sport amongst her fellow girls.

So how does playing alongside girls make the boys on the team feel? In a sport so obsessed with masculine imagery and intimidation, it would be easy to feel frustrated and angry about having to play with the fairer half of humanity. Having only fourteen people on the team does not allow for such sentiment however. Eleven players must be on the football field during the game, so without the contributions of the four girls, there would be no Thirds football team. Groton is one of only a few schools in the ISL which still offers a Thirds football team, due to its status as a school tradition and legacy. But signups for the team have dipped in recent years, bringing up the conversation of eliminating the program altogether. Perhaps the example of these four girls will open the door to other girls interested in playing America’s favorite sport. The door has already been opened elsewhere. A girl in Florida became the first girl in her state’s history to play at quarterback for her highschool. An 11 year old in Louisiana earned herself the nickname “icebox” from her teammates on a middle school team for her punishing blocks and refusal to be pushed around. Groton is following this recent national trend which could potentially spark a new interest in women’s football, leading to exclusively female teams.

Football is not an easy sport, as any football player will tell you.  “I admire their strength to stay on the team even though they might feel out of place sometimes,” says Steven Anton ’16. It would be hard for a girl to not stand out on the football field, especially one with hair as long as Leah Mozzer. But all four have stuck with it and are not planning on quitting. It is a different strength than the one commonly associated with football, but any coach will tell you it’s just as important. Their teammates recognize this quality and admire it. “They learn quickly and are very determined to get better all the time,” says John MacEachern ’16. The first football game of Sashni, Leah, and Brittany’s lives is fast approaching, and the entire team is working hard every day to be ready for it. Anna is preparing for yet another game of the sport she loves, and the coaches, including Ms. Wallace, prepare their playbooks for October. It is a new look for a team as old as the school, but the Thirds football program is alive and thriving, ready to take the field not as eleven boys and three girls, but as fourteen football players.

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