Only female on football team kicks stereotypes to the curb

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Mimi Kessler watches the football team practice on Sept 22. She suffered a concussion during the game against the Verbum Dei Eagles but is confident that she will be in her uniform and gear by next week. Photo by: Ryo Miyake

Ryo Miyake staff writer

Even though senior Mimi Kessler always looked up to her football-playing older brothers, she was too nervous to join the team her freshman year. But when she heard the football team was looking for a kicker this season, this three-sport athlete decided to show up for practice and kick for Head Coach Marquis Bowling.  

“I loved her determination and moxie,” Bowling said.

And her grit and guts are exactly what led her coach to select her as one of the four team captains.

“When [Coach Bowling] announced me as captain a couple of weeks ago, it was honestly kind of empowering, as I’m the only girl on the team,” Kessler said. “The guys have a lot of respect for me, which I was surprised about because I thought they wouldn’t be like that [because] I’m the only girl. But, being the only woman, I was scared and thought that no one’s gonna take me seriously but it’s the complete opposite.”

Bowling didn’t “choose” Kessler to be a captain, though. Her leadership skills and her actions were enough to show him that she “is and was” already a captain. 

“As a coach, you’re limited, to a certain extent. When you’re looking for leadership, you want that leadership to be an extension of yourself. You want it to be someone others respect and will listen to,” Bowling said.  “Mimi was born a leader. It was just a matter of me seeing her qualities and giving her the status and platform that she will always have in life: the ability and willingness to be out front and lead.”

Like Bowling, defensive back senior Andrew Villaflor, who is also one of the four captains on the team, has high praise for Kessler.

“Mimi is a very good athlete. On and off the field, she is a great friend and teammate. She is very courageous for joining the football team. Being in a male dominated sport as the only female does not come easy. She’s breaking stereotypes. She makes the team, as a whole, a better environment,” Villaflor said.

Offensive and defensive lineman junior Francis Molina also admires Kessler, as well as the other three captains.

“Mimi is a great friend, teammate, captain and leader. She has taken the lead and helped control and guide our team, along with the other seniors, and is teaching us to be better players, friends and teammates,” Molina said. 

 Although Kessler is proud to be part of the team, she feels self-conscious about making mistakes because of her gender.

“During the games, obviously everyone makes mistakes, but I feel like if I make one, everyone would look at me,” Kessler said.  I’ve had a couple of people tell me that you’re not allowed to play for the boys. There’s no rule that says that I can’t. Even when people don’t say it directly to my face, my own thoughts are telling me that people look at me as if I’m not supposed to be there and that I’m out of place.”

This fear, however, has not brought Kessler down, as she sees the football helmet as a source of protection for her.

“I like it, as you can’t tell it’s a female under the helmet. It looks like I’m just really short, so it’s really fun. I remember during a game, where I tackled a guy [and] when he saw me take my helmet off, he was shocked. I was in a lot of pain, but I felt really good. Even in practices too, we’re not allowed to tackle, but I know that I can tackle half of the guys,” Kessler said. 

Kessler wishes for other females to gain confidence from her and use her as a ticket to joining teams even if it is dominated by males. 

“No one has heard of or remembered a female player in a football team [the last time we had a female on the team was during the 2000-2001 season], and that really pushed me to go for it. I want me joining the football team to be the start of girls joining teams and hav[ing] the confidence to be in a team composed of male athletes. I want everyone to believe that they are capable of doing anything and that there is no need of worrying if they are good at it or not,” Kessler said. 

Kessler also believes in the importance of viewing failure as a learning experience. 

“There is no need to be afraid of failure and getting rejected. It’s a learning opportunity and that is what many don’t see. Everything is a learning opportunity and I want people to have the confidence to experience that. It’s 2021. Be the person to break the boundaries. I did it, [and] so can you.”

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