Female football player tackles stereotypes
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Normally when most people think of football they think of a tough, buff, and sweaty guy. What may come as a surprise for many is that there is a girl on Central’s football team. People often have the stereotype that football is a guys’ sport, however junior Chiara Gregor proves otherwise.
Gregor’s dad played football when he was 19 and ever since then Gregor knew about football and how to play it. As a freshman, Gregor said she was too scared to play, but when sophomore year rolled around, she tried out for the sophomore team. Currently, she is a wide receiver.
“When I joined football, I was very nervous, but the reason I would always come back was that the guys made me love this game so much,” Gregor said. “My teammates always cheered me on, helped me out, and most importantly, they believed in me.”
To Gregor, football is so much more than a sport, it is a family on all levels. Gregor said that she has about 80 brothers that she can count on whenever. Gregor and her teammates have all built a very close relationship with each other in such a short time. She said she believes the camaraderie between the team is due to the pre-season camp at Augustana College, which she said was three of the best days of her life.
“I think that sleeping, eating, and being around each other 24/7 was really the main contributor to getting closer,” said Kiran Amegadije, senior offensive linemen. “We spent so much time together and made connections and talked to people maybe we hadn’t really known before. Practicing a couple of times a day brought us closer because we were all grinding together to get better and get ready for the season.”
According to Gregor, what made her love football so much wasn’t just the sport itself, but rather her teammates and coaches.
“[It’s] great that a female has decided to play football for our team. Chiara is playing wide receiver for the Red Devils and it does not change the dynamic of the team,” said Matthew McNiff, varsity wide receiver coach.
At every game, Gregor gets to meet new people and make many friends in the process. As the only girl on the team, Gregor stands out even when she isn’t playing.
“There is always someone who comes up to me, [whether] it’s someone from our fan section or even our opponents’ fans,” Gregor said. “There are so many people who call me their hero or tell me how proud they are, and that was never my intention. All I wanted was to play ball but since I’m the only girl that automatically comes with it.”
Gregor said that being on all-girls teams for other sports had too much drama, but with the football team, everyone is just looking to have a good time. She said she doesn’t feel like she is treated differently compared to her male teammates and that she always does the same drills as them.
“Chiara is included in all drills [wide] receiver related, and she is also expected to participate in 7-on-7 drills, 1-on-1 drills, and team drills. She does a good job, and she demonstrates toughness and ambition throughout all drills. We go about it as business as usual and Chiara is one of many important players of the team,” McNiff said.
On whether or not she thinks there should be more girls on Central’s team, Gregor disagrees. She believes that the inclusion of more girls would change the team dynamic and cause the guys to not be themselves anymore.
“I am not sure that it would be different. I know that we would welcome it and we would go about it as business as usual. Any player that participates will have the same expectations; show up on time, work hard in the off-season and during the season, demonstrate grit, and remain passionate about the game. Chiara exemplifies all of those features. We are happy to have her and every other member of the team,” McNiff said.
Gregor said that joining the team was one of the best decisions she made as she is constantly playing the sport she loves. Football isn’t just a sport; it’s her life.
“I know how much the game means to the guys, you can feel it. When we’re in the locker room and get all hyped up before our games, you can see it in their eyes. (Gregor gets ready for the games in the girls locker room but joins the team in the boys locker room before games.) It’s something special, it really is. They don’t just say football is life, they mean it,” Gregor said.
The next football game will be away at Oak Park and River Forest High School on Friday, Sept. 20 at 7:30 p.m.
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