Finding “purpose” as girls in football

Q & A: Heaven Manning (12)

Q: When did you start playing?
A: I decided at the end of last year at my brother’s football banquet. I told Coach Valach that I was going to play football. He didn’t believe me until I came to spring workouts and he was like “Oh, this is for real.”

Q: What inspired you to join?
A: I’ve always been a cheerleader and I like to watch football a lot. My brothers have always played, and one of them went to the NFL for football. It has always been a part of my life, and I didn’t want to be on the sidelines anymore. I also like to tackle so it all works out.

Q: Do you feel a difference being one of the only girls on the team?
A:Sometimes I do feel the divide because I can’t go in the locker room with the boys. I can’t have the time before games until a certain time, like 30 minutes before the game, when they have the time together. It is never something you are ever going to get. Sometimes they are not allowed to tackle me; I have to use the pads in the spring season because I don’t have my football pads on so they can’t hit me in the chest. It’s really funny but I don’t really feel a big division because they always try to include me in things such as the workouts.

Q:Does having girls on the team positivity impact it?
A:I think it has really broken the glass ceiling for other girls who are interested. But for the team, I think it see now the benefits of the potential at Liberty for other girls to play, and that we are an asset, and we aren’t just cheerleaders on the sidelines.

Q & A: Ryan Croasdell (9)

Q:What is your favorite part of playing football?
A:I like it when something big happens on the field and then the team comes off from the sidelines. Everyone is just super happy and excited about it.

Q:Is having a girl on the team an advantage against other teams?
A:I think it depends on the other team’s mindset. In a way, yes. It is surprising so it can catch them off guard if they notice because our hair is hidden under our helmets.

Q:What was the initial reaction of the team?
A:I think initially, a few of them thought we were going to quit. They were definitely surprised at first because it has been so many years; I don’t even know if there have ever been any girls before. It’s a surprise to have a change.

Q:What is your best memory of the season?
A:One time I caught the football during practice and it was a scream of “hey!” because they usually throw to a different position because there are other players with other skills and strengths. It was a spur of the moment; it just happened.

Q & A: Leah Wong (9)

Q:What inspired you to start playing football?
A:My brother inspired me. Also, one of my really good friend’s dad was one of the tackle football coaches who thought I should play.

Q:What is your favorite part about playing for Liberty?
A:The community. It’s kind of like a family which makes it fun to be on the field and play.

Q:Have you ever been told you play like a girl? Is it a compliment?
A:I haven’t but honestly if I was it would be a compliment. It’s just the same as a guy. Maybe we have to work a little harder to be at the same level, so it shows the work is paying off.

Q:What is your favorite memory of playing football for Liberty so far?
A:My favorite memory was when we had a game where the sophomores had a separate team so I got to start and play the whole game for our team.