Tackling gender norms: meet Tigard’s girl football players


Tiffany Li

Ada Yake gets playing time on the freshman football team. She started playing five years ago and wants to continue throughout high school.

By Ashley Sample, Staff Writer

     Two female football players, Jordan White and Ada Yake, made their Tigard debut at the freshman game on Sept. 5 against Sunset.

     The Football Association, an organization that oversees all football organizations and levels, originally banned females from playing football, but towards the end of the 1960s, that began to change. According to the sports news website Deadspin, statistics of girls playing football are kept by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

     2,404 girls played high school football in the 2018-2019 season, but that made up just .2 percent of all high school football players. Last year only 1,918 schools out of 37,100 schools in the United States had a female football player on their teams, according to the NFHS.

     In Oregon there are currently 103 female football players on team rosters this season. 36 of those players are on the Molalla teams. When OSAA’s Executive Director Brad Garrett gave The Paw these numbers, he questioned whether they were accurate. At Garrett’s suggestion, The Paw reached out, but no one at Molalla responded about whether this was an accurate count.

     Teams within Tigard’s own Three Rivers League also have female football players including Tualatin and Lake Oswego. 

Caroline Frisiras
The graph shows the number of female football players in Oregon by size of school. Molalla, 4A, reported 36 girls playing the sports, which made 4A the school size most likely to have female football players taking the field.

     White started out in the youth program five years ago. “My dad was a coach and my brother played football, and I wanted to be like him,” White said. Jordan’s dad coached in the past at Tigard, and his brother played for Tigard as well. 

     Yake has also been playing football for five years. “We played football at recess all the time, and I really enjoyed it,” Yake said. She and White both play offensive and defensive line on the freshman team.

     Tigard has had a female football player in the past. Alumna Justice Davis ‘14 played on the JV team in 2012. Varsity football coach John Kemper said she didn’t play much due to certain requirements that she did not meet, but security guard Pete Kostel, the JV coach during the time Davis attended Tigard, said she did a good job of showing up. 

     “The team did a good job of treating her like a teammate,” Kostel said. Yake and White agree, and they both said their teammates have always been supportive and willing to help them when needed. 

     Freshman Lucas Payne doesn’t mind playing with White and Yake because he feels their skill level is equal to his. “If they want to play they can play,” he said. In fact, he mentioned they had more playing time than he did. 

     The two girls on the freshman team this year have not only their team, but each other for support. “I like having Ada on the team,” White said. “It makes me feel like I fit in a bit more.” Yake has seen playing time in every game this season. White has not; however, she is very supportive of Yake’s success. 

     “Our coaches have done a good job with not allowing them to do anything less than the guys,” Athletic Director Alan Boschma said. 

     But there are some difficulties. One big difference separating the girls from the boys is where they change. The girls are required to change in separate areas from the boys. “On away games most of the time they change here prior to even going,” Boschma said. Before home games, the girls change clothes before the visiting team arrives, due to the visiting team taking the girls locker room during game hours. 

     “I wish we had a girls football team so girls could play against girls,” Boschma said. “They’ve got all these other strengths, but to keep them on the same playing field just can’t be; it’s not anatomically possible.”

     His main concern has to do with the physical nature of the game. “With football, the only tough thing is [that] what you’re asking kids to do sometimes goes against how we should be treating girls,” Boschma said. “When you teach somebody to block, you’re asking them to hit them in a certain area, and if that’s a female, would you do that the same way?”

     “I hate playing against girls because it’s awkward,” sophomore JV football player Lucas Lyman said. Freshman football players Cameron Masters and Nathan Duenas both agreed that they feel awkward having girls on their teams at times. They mentioned that when they block, their hands go certain places that they don’t feel comfortable with but said they can’t always help it. Yake and White don’t share the same concerns as Boschma and the boys. 

     “I don’t want people to make a big deal just because I’m a girl because it’s a no cut team,” Yake said. 

     Both Yake and White agree that they haven’t felt like they have experienced sexism and are glad to be able to suit up and be part of the team with the guys.

     If the OSAA’s statistics are accurate, Boschma’s wish may come true. Though there are difficulties adjusting to having females in football, more girls are joining every year. White and Yake hope to continue to play football through their senior years.