That's all it took for Emma Lyngvar to second-guess her decision about playing football.
“She was ready to quit,” said Verity Middle School coach Dwight Walter.
During aspiring players' traditional run on the steps of Putnam Stadium, assistant coach Fields Davis jumped onto the bleachers and caught up to the eighth-grader.
“You can make it, you can make it,” Walter recalled him saying.
Lyngvar shot back, “my mom was right, I don’t need to be out here. I'm just a girl!”
Lyngvar, though, isn't just a girl.
She’s a girl who likes to work on cars with her uncle.
She’s a girl who enjoys building bows and arrows.
She’s a girl who wants to play football.
That pushed her through the stadium sprints and the rest of conditioning, and through the drills, and as the team prepares to strap on new helmets to go along with their pads, Walter is now confident she can handle the next stage too.
At first? “At first, it was a fear of the unknown,” Walter remembered when he was first approached about coaching a girl.
“I coached girls softball one year. Some people are cut out for that and it's not me. I got out of that, and I kind of had it in my mind that I wouldn't coach another girl. But this is totally different.”
It’s different, because the do-rag-sporting Lyngvar desires to be treated the same, simply as another member of the team.
“At first I would address the team like, ‘Gentlemen … and lady,’” Walter said. “But she came up to me and said, ‘I know when you say ‘guys,’ you mean all of us.’ That was cool.”
Lyngvar tried other sports.
“I played soccer one year,” she said after Friday's football practice. “Didn’t like it.”
But, what about basketball or softball? Volleyball or track? Why football?
“I wanted to get frustration out of my system,” she said, cracking a smile.
Lyngvar grew up playing football, just not competitively until this year. She played with her brother, Levi, who now lives in Pennsylvania.
“I’ve always wanted to play,” said Lyngvar, a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
When she arrived to Verity’s first practice, she expressed interest in playing quarterback, according to Walter. While QB may be a fit for Lyngvar in time, it wasn't then.
To some, the most logical option for a girl might be to try kicker or punter.
But, remember, Lyngvar's not just any girl. She wants to be out there in the middle of the action.
Asked what position she hopes to play, she answered, “No clue yet. Maybe tackle.”
“I’ve had so many people ask me, is she your kicker?” Walter said. “No, she's a player.”
There's nothing different about her other than underneath that do-rag is a girl,” said Walter, also Ashland's assistant varsity baseball coach. “Underneath those pads, there's a girl.”
Walter sensed an awkwardness about Lyngvar's teammates in the beginning. It wore off quickly, though.
“I’ll admit, when I was 13, I wouldn’t have acted the same way as these boys,” Walter said. “But times have changed. She’s accepted.”
Verity opens its season on Aug. 11 against East Carter at Raceland.
AARON SNYDER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2664.
Eighth-grader Emma Lyngvar shows football is not just a boy’s game anymore
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