Welcome to another roundup! Now that we’re past Labor Day, schools nationwide are back to class in full swing – and for many students, that means back to their school sports teams, too. Some girls will lace up their cleats for soccer or sneakers for cross country. But 17-year-old Erin DiMeglio will lace up her cleats, pull on her pads, and strap on her helmet—as the third-string quarterback for her high school’s football team.
Yep, football. Full contact, full speed football in Florida – a state known for churning out some of the nation’s top male college prospects. I admire Erin for sticking to her guns and landing a spot on this team. But the most heartwarming part of this story is that to the rest of the team, she’s just another teammate. She happens to be a girl… but they don’t really care.
Erin’s been playing football since elementary school. Her father taught her to throw a ball, and she was one of four girls in her fourth grade flag football league. Since arriving at South Plantation High School, she’s helped out with managing the boy’s football team, and she joined the girl’s flag football team in the spring.
Erin’s football coach Doug Gatewood already knew Erin could throw well when she started pestering him about joining the boy’s team, because Gatewood coaches the girl’s flag team, too.
“She’ll get upset because the girls can’t catch her ball because she throws too hard. I have to remind her to throw a catchable ball, because she’s not throwing to Michael Irvin. But she can pretty much wing a girl’s football wherever she wants to put it,” Gatewood said. Erin’s father, Tom DiMeglio added, “She’s always had a really strong arm. She could throw better than a lot of the guys.”
On Gatewood’s invitation, Erin began throwing with the boy’s team during some of their off-season trainings. It took her a little adjusting (just like in basketball, women play with a ball that’s a bit smaller than a men’s ball), but she mastered the bigger football her first day. The next day she donned a helmet for her throw around with the guys, and on the third day she threw in full pads.
Eventually Erin joined the varsity team on a trip to the University of South Florida, where she played for the team in a seven-on-seven tournament. Coach Gatewood even mixes up their offensive formation when Erin’s in the game, so that Erin has more time to handle the football and avoid being tackled. And if she does get hit? “I have a wide receiver that weighs 25 pounds less than her,” Gatewood points out. “And the pads she wears are the same as the pads he wears.”
Erin’s parents and Coach Gatewood weren’t totally convinced at first that Erin should join the boy’s team, but they eventually gave way. Her parents knew their daughter was tough; as a standout player on the girl’s basketball team, Erin has sustained a broken nose and torn labrum, among other injuries. So when Erin finally became a full-fledged member of the football team, she already had the respect and trust of her teammates – or, as starting quarterback John Franklin puts it, “She’s for real.”
Best of luck to Erin and her teammates this season!
Also of interest this week:
GLAAD’s Network Responsibility Index and the State of LGBT Television
Retired doctor says the stigma against abortion providers is worse today than it was before Roe v. Wade
World Hijab Day Has Got It All Wrong
Chicago Police Adopt New Transgender Policy
Pregnancy Cost: Is Having Kids Becoming Unaffordable For Middle Class Women?
Sunday Rumpus Essay: Knocked Over: On Biology, Magical Thinking and Choice
That’s all for now! What have you been reading? Let us know by sharing a link in the comments or emailing it to me at djackson(at)nwlc(dot)org.