SHELBY COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) – There’s a new sport coming under the Friday night lights, statewide this year. For the first time, high school female athletes have a chance to play football together on a team competitively.
The Spain Park Jaguars are only about a week in—but say they’re ready to play some flag football.
“I’ve always loved football,” sophomore Blayklee Turnipseed said. “Just growing up, throwing the football with my dad and my friends and I’ve always wanted to be on a football team but there’s never really been an opportunity.”
Alabama is joining a handful of states empowering female athletes to play a traditional male sport at the high school level. Spain Park is one of dozens of statewide teams joining in on this pilot season.
“The Atlanta falcons and NFL look at this as a niche market in bringing fans to football. It’s a great team sport,” AHSAA Assistant Director Jeff Segars said. “It’s exciting. It’s a great opportunity for our female athletes.”
It’s something husband and wife coaches Robert and Carmen Starr could not pass up.
“I just looked at it as another fun opportunity to do something different, something new,” Robert said. “You get a chance to be the first at something, the first at Spain Park, first in the state.”
Robert and Carmen are going all in this season. They have already purchased the gear and uniforms the team will need.
“All I ever wanted to do was play football, so the opportunity to coach it, it was a no brainer,” Carmen said. “I want them to finish the season and feel a real sense of accomplishment. We’ve progressed, gotten better, learned something new and we’ll carry it into next year.”
It’s an opportunity the Starrs don’t want these women to miss out on.
“When I first signed up, I didn’t think it was going to be as rough as it is, but you’d be surprised how hard these girls go out here on this field,” Senior Erin Oliver said. “Don’t ever be afraid for what people might say just because you’re a female or you’re a little girl. Just put your whole heart into it and do whatever makes you happy.”
These women are busting down gender barriers – writing the history on this sport.
“I know a lot of times you hear guys be like, ‘oh you’re a girl, you can’t do that’, but, you know we’re doing it,” sophomore Libby Baty said.
Right now, the Jaguars have four games booked and are hoping to add another game or two to the schedule. They’re looking forward to making this a permanent staple of the athletic program.