Middle schooler sacks gender barrier
September 12, 2006
Kara Broughton inevitably stands out as a member of Basalt’s seventh-grade football team because she is a girl in a boy-dominated sport.But when you get to the heart of the matter, you discover there is no meaningful difference between Kara and the 25 boys out for the squad.”I like hitting people,” was Kara’s refreshing response to the question of what inspired her to go out for football. That proved to be a recurring theme during a conversation about her athletic pursuits.She stands out because our society still erects an artificial barrier for most girls when it comes to football. But for Kara, it’s no big deal that she is a girl in what’s perceived as a boys’ sport. For her coach, Jason Kreiling, it’s no big deal. And, by appearances, it’s no big deal for her teammates, either. She’s one of the guys on the field – even if she is a girl.Kara, 12, has known and played with her teammates throughout childhood. When the fourth-graders had the option to go out for football, Kara jumped at the chance. She said she doesn’t like watching football on television, but always thought it would be fun to play. Societal barriers weren’t going to prevent her from going out.
“I think it’s dumb,” she said. “Some people think some sports are for boys and some sports are for girls. I think they should be equal.”Nevertheless, she “tried not doing it” in fifth grade but learned she really missed football, and went out. Her doctor recommended sitting out the season last year because of problems with her throat. But she was back on the field when practices started Aug. 21.Kara is taller than most of her teammates at this stage of their development. She has more muscle tone, particularly in her upper arms, than is typical in a 12-year-old, boy or girl. (She lifts weights at home when she is bored, she explained.)On the defensive and offensive line she was indistinguishable when the lines crashed together during practice Monday afternoon. Look close enough and you can identify Kara from the short blond ponytail that sticks out from her helmet. Her mom, Karen, noted that Kara was also the only player with little balls sticking up on the back of her socks.Kreiling said Kara is tough and very coachable. He welcomes having a girl on the team. “It’s good to see that she’s going outside the box a little bit,” he said.Kara sacked the Rifle quarterback in her squad’s first game this season. She liked getting that game experience.
“It’s fun hitting new people that you don’t know,” she said.The Rifle boys didn’t have any problem playing against a girl. They also have a female on their team. Kara said she’s never heard any insult on the field. Sometimes, she said, she senses that an opponent on the line will “go easier on me – and they shouldn’t.” She acknowledged that when that happens, it motivates her to play even harder.Kara said her friends always want to hear how she did at school the day after the games. “You feel popular for a day,” she said.Her parents, Karen and Merlin, are her biggest fans, of course. Karen Broughton said she has no qualms about her daughter going out for football, although she said she never would have considered it herself as a kid.”She’s very much a little girl. She’s a girl at heart, but she’s tough as nails,” Karen said, noting her daughter isn’t violent off the field.When asked if he’s worried about injuries, Merlin said his concern is for the opposing players. Kara is tough, he said.
Kara has always been rough-and-tumble. She “turbocharged” her Barbie car by adding batteries, then gave other kids rides around their neighborhood, Karen recalled.Kara added: “I threw a temper tantrum when I had to wear a dress or anything girlie.”How far Kara’s football career goes is uncertain. Kara said she takes it one season at a time. Her mom glanced at the eighth-graders who share the practice field and noted that’s the age when boys start catching girls in physical maturity.Even if Kara doesn’t keep mixing it up with the boys on a football field, she won’t shy away from competing with the boys. She informed her mom she also plans going out for the “boys” baseball team next spring.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.