Female Athlete Makes Football Team for the First Time


Olivia O'Connell

When thinking of a typical high school female athlete, one might associate them with a soccer ball or a field hockey stick. An image of someone who braids their teammate’s hair before a big game and sings with their teammates on a long bus ride home comes to mind. They are constantly surrounded by a team full of other girls, all close both on and off the court or field. However, for sophomore Shawna Sullivan, that image of a team is a little different.

Just two days after being cut from the soccer team, Sullivan made the decision to play kicker on the football team. She knew she wanted to continue with a fall sport as well as utilize her soccer skills, so she started off by emailing Athletic Director Ronald Dowd to ask for the opportunity to be on the football team. Sullivan was then placed on the freshman team because she had not gone to Gut Camp nor played football before.

“The coaches and players are excited to have her on the team, and she seems to have fit right in with the rest of our players,” freshman head coach Thomas Hart said. “All we see when she comes to practice is a player on our team who we hope can help us to become a better football team.”

Sullivan played in her first game with the freshman team against Milton on Friday, Sept. 28. The Rebels won 26-25, and Sullivan took every kickoff.

“The game was awesome. I can’t wait until the next game, and I think the team is going to do great the rest of the season,” Sullivan said.

Title IX is a federal law within the Education Amendments Act of 1972 that states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

In Walpole, boys compete on the Girls Swimming and Diving team because there is not a team for boys; additionally, Walpole Girls Field Hockey has recently played Somerset Berkeley, a team that includes two boys.

Although the football team has not played with a girl before Sullivan joined, she has experienced overall positivity from her teammates.

“I was nervous that the team would not talk to me and isolate me. At first the kids were almost like nervous around me and didn’t know how to act,” Sullivan said. “But then 20 minutes into the practice, it felt like I had been on the team from the start. Everyone has been so nice; it’s just been so great.”

Outside of football, Sullivan is a normal 15-year-old girl. In her free time, she hangs out with friends and spends time with her two brothers. Inside of school, she takes part in a variety of clubs such as Conservation Club, Humane Society, Art Club and Photography Club.

According to Sullivan, her favorite part about the sport is the team atmosphere: she enjoys the “positive and drama-free” company of her fellow teammates.

“The other day I had a bad day, and then I went down to the locker room. I was getting changed, and as I was going outside I immediately felt a lot better because the kids are just so fun,” Sullivan said.