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More High School Girls Are Playing Tackle Football Than Ever

Snow Brenner, the first girl to play in a North Carolina 3A high-school championship game, in 1995
Photo: Ap/ Bob Jordan (AP Images)

No high schools in America offer a girls tackle football team. If a girl wants to play football, she has to go out for the boys’ team. There’s no guarantee that she’ll make the team, but Title IX guarantees that every sport offered only to boys at the high school level has to allow girls a fair shot at tryouts.

There aren’t many girls who are up to the task. Laura Goetz, a sophomore in Salt Lake City, Utah, plays on the boys team at her school. “I’m not going to lie. I am scared to be quarterback for the guys,” she says. “There’s a bunch of pressure on me. If you mess up, the players will get mad at you. I don’t want that to happen to me because it’s already hard enough.”


Still, she plays. She goes to practice with the boys and will play under the bright lights on Friday nights this fall. She’s not alone.

According to data gathered on all fifty states (and D.C.) by the National Federation of State High Schools Association, more girls are playing on boys football teams than ever before. For the 2018-2019 school year 2,404 girls played 11-man tackle football on boys teams at the high school level. That’s more than has ever been recorded in the NFHSA’s history:

A little over one million high school students played 11-man football in the 2018-2019 level, so girls only made up 0.2% of participants. Girls played at 1,918 different schools, which means that they also usually played as the only girl on the field.

Just because girls are choosing to play on boys tackle football teams at the high school level, though, doesn’t mean they wouldn’t want to play on their own team. Shawn Goetz, whose daughter Laura plays on the high school boys team, says that she plays with the boys because its the only way to play at school.


“That’s why you look at a boys team and there’s one girl. They have no option. She has her good days and her bad days,” Shawn Goetz says. “On the girls-only team there are only good days. You don’t go to practice and get called all these names by the boys on the team.”

You can read about the only girls recreational tackle football league in America here:


Kelsey McKinney is a staff writer for Deadspin.

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