CONTRIBUTED BY JORDAN DIAS
The leather football glides across the field and lands perfectly in the hands of her teammate. He sends the ball back with the same perfect arc he received it with, and together the two players jog off the field, joking with one another before the team huddle.
Though she is the only female football player at the high school, senior Jordan Dias is not regarded as “the girl on the football team,” but as one of the players. Through her dedication, encouragement and leadership abilities, she has helped strengthen the team.
Dias has been playing since her sophomore year, when she decided to switch from cheerleading to football. Her freshman year, Dias was on the cheerleading team just as her older sisters were, yet she quickly realized that she enjoyed watching the football games more than she liked cheering for them.
Shortly after, Dias was alerted that under Federal Title IX Law, students are allowed to play for a sports team of the opposite gender if the sport is not offered for their gender. So the summer before sophomore year, Dias showed up to football tryouts; she was the only girl to do so.
“The first few days were really hard,” Dias said. “I was a very different kind of athlete at the time. I was a cheerleader, so I could do the flips and I could cheer all day, but I wasn’t at the same stamina level or endurance level as the guys.”
Yet as the weeks went on, Dias quickly became accustomed to the rigorous practices and began to understand the team culture.
She was able to push herself out of her comfort zone and become more comfortable talking and joking around with her teammates.
Senior John Fisher, who has also been playing football since his sophomore year, said that he was a bit startled to see a girl at football tryouts. Now, however, he views Dias as he would any other member of the team.
“I think others’ initial reactions were kind of the same as mine,” Fisher said. “We were surprised, but we were accepting. When she came it wasn’t anything different—it was just like, ‘She is one of us; she is part of the family.’”
The varsity football coach, Chad Hunte, also noticed that the team treats Dias just like any other player.
“I think they take it in stride,” Hunte said. “No one realizes, ‘Oh this is a girl, let’s treat her differently.’ It’s just Jordan. It’s great, and everyone loves her.”
For Dias, being on the football team allows her to step away from stressors in her life and focus on the sport.
“Football is one of my escapes. I think school is really hard and my family can be pretty annoying. I use football to get away from that,” Dias said. “I love to win, and I think that the feeling is the best part. You feel like you are in a family, and it just feels a lot better. I’ll be in a bad mood when I’m at school and then I’ll just feel a lot better when I’m at practice.”
According to Hunte, Dias brings the team together and ensures that everyone brings their best effort.
“I think it is regardless of gender, what Jordan brings,” Hunte said. “She brings a leadership and a work ethic that I haven’t seen before. She is on our kids to get better. She wants to make sure everyone gets better and everyone works hard.”
Not only does Dias encourage her teammates, but she also reassures other female players to continue with the sport despite the challenges they might face.
While at a game against Newton South, Dias spoke to another female player from the Newton South team.
“I went up to her and I was like, ‘Stick it out because it’s gonna be great when you are a senior and you get to play varsity and you just get to have fun with the guys,’” Dias said. “I really wanted her to stick it out. It’s worth it.”
For Dias, football not only provides a sense of community, but it also helps her build up her own confidence.
“If any girls want to play, they should definitely play,” Dias said. “It helped my self-esteem and confidence. There’s the physical part where you are building strength and no one can really mess with you because you are playing football. There is something deeper that I can’t really describe. It really brings out your best self.”
Dias inspires many other students through her perseverance and determination.
“She didn’t care about race, gender, whatever, it didn’t matter,” Fisher said. “I think she showed something by her being the only girl on the team: if you want to do something, go do it. Don’t be afraid of anything else or what anyone else will think. ”
Every single day Dias brings her best effort to practice and is able to add so much to the team by doing so.
“She just works hard, she cares, she just brings it every day,” Fisher said. “Every single day she’s there, she brings heart, she brings tension; she’s got heart. I love that.”