But She's a Girl!
by Chuck Gordon
former assistant football coach at
Bridgeport High School
My first season at Bridgeport High School was full of surprises. One of the biggest was that we had inherited a female player on the varsity team. Now I consider myself to be a gentleman and a middle of the road moderate, but I didn't like this one bit. I mean, my mother taught me how to treat a lady. You open doors for them and stand up when they enter or leave the room. You don't send them across the middle of the field on 3rd down and long to get creamed by some senior who's more than a little worried that the "little lady" might get lucky and make him look bad in front of dear ol' dad.
To add to my dillema, she was a receiver which meant that she would be working primarily with me. I talked to Head Coach, Bob Collins, a close friend and told him that I wasn't sure what to do about Theresa. That was her name, Theresa Beeckman.
Coach Collins looked at me and asked me one question, had I talked to her yet? "No," I said, but I was thinking, "talk to her? What good would that do. I'm trying to save her life." "You talk to her, then we'll talk again," he told me and like that he was gone, off to finish one of the million tasks that must be done before you can start a season.
Well, I talked to her and guess what? I found a person that didn't have a political axe to grind, who didn't want to do something just because everyone else thought that she shouldn't. What I found was someone who loved the game of football every bit as much as I did.
If you've never played the game it may be impossible for me to express to you the emotional high you get from being a part of a football team. Taking the field Friday nights after laying it on the line all week in practice just for the chance to lay it out there once more, only this time it's in front of everyone you know. Football is a game that mirrors life in a lot of ways and like life, you can be hurt or worse. Every football player knows this, and yet they play.
Theresa knew this as well and she wanted to play. I would soon learn that no chance of birth would ever stop her once her mind was made up. I also learned that didn't have to protect her, she was more than capable of taking care of herself.
In order to be fair, I should tell you that she was not very big, or strong, or all that fast. I can also tell you that she never asked for any favors, never shied away from a hit. She never missed or was late for a practice. She played when she was hurt and stepped in when her teammates couldn't continue, never once complaining. She made big plays in big games and always gave everything she had.
So you tell me, should girls play football with the boys? I don't know, it would depend. Some boys shouldn't play either, but if I could get 11 players with Theresa's heart and courage, I'd take on anybody. So when I hear, "But she's a girl!" I say, "No sir, she is a football player and a Bearcat, and one of the finest I have ever known."
Note from Theresa:
It has been 17 years since my experiences on the Bridgeport High School football team and not a day has gone by that I am not thankful for the entire experience. The book project that I am embarking on now will be about this great experience and the many great people that helped me along the way, including the author of the above note.
Face your fears, get out of your comfort zone! Trust me, you will not regret it for one minute!