Freshman Kaitlyn Gillard plays football as the only female player

GIRL+POWER%3A+Freshman+kaitlyn+Gillard+shows+off+her+muscles+as+she+holds+onto+a+helmet.+She+started+playing+football+when+she+was+in+seventh+grade+and+is+currently+the+only+girl+in+the+Grand+Haven+High+School+football+program.+

Grace Montgomery

GIRL POWER: Freshman kaitlyn Gillard shows off her muscles as she holds onto a helmet. She started playing football when she was in seventh grade and is currently the only girl in the Grand Haven High School football program.

By Misgana Deur, Grand Haven High School

She weaves through the hallways wearing a Grand Haven football jersey. You might be wondering who she is, or why she is wearing a jersey. Well, freshman Kaitlyn Gillard is unlike any other. She is the only girl that participates in the Grand Haven football program.

“In seventh grade, it started as a joke between me and my friends,” Gillard said. “Then summer of the seventh grade came by and we got serious about it. I knew some of the guys from the team and they were like ‘you’d be pretty good.’”

To be on a team where a majority of players are boys can be different. But for Gillard, she instantly felt at home. 

“At first I was thinking it would be weird because I’m a girl,” Gillard said. “I thought that it would just feel awkward. But now that I am playing, it’s just like a second family.”

As many people know, football is a male-dominated sport. It is not common to see a girl play football. But, as the years go on, more girls are starting to join and Gillard is one of them.

“I made it very clear to her that she had the same opportunity as her male counterparts to earn playing time,” freshman coach Randy Poel said. “When she got her chance to play, we simply encouraged her and told her we had every confidence in her that she would play well. She held her own and did a good job.”

All her teammates appreciate the hard work and commitment she puts into the team. “She’s a great team player,” teammate Braxton Wilson said. “She brings good vibes to the sidelines and she’s just overall always in a good mood.”

Not every person accepts Gillard’s devotion to football. 

“There are people that look at me weird whenever I wear my jersey,” Gillard said. “I think they’re trying to figure out if I play or not.”

But the weird looks and whispers don’t stop Gillard from continuing to play the sport she loves. She has also influenced younger girls to participate in football. 

“There are a few people that I babysit that look up to me,” Gillard said. “They came to some of my games a few times and they said that it’s super cool and actually would like to try it out.”

People have been more accepting of the idea that females can play football too. The football program continues to accept girls that are strong enough to play. 

“Kaitlyn is physically strong enough to play and did a great job until her injury,” Poel said. 

Even though Gillard is injured, she still continues to go to practice and games every day. She still pushes her teammates to be successful on the field. 

Throughout Gillard’s experience, she learned that football is more than just a sport. 

“It is more than just a game,” Gillard said. “It’s your family. When we’re on the field together we are creating really good friendships.”

Gillard’s courage, hard work, and confidence guided her to a long-time passion. 

“Just do it,” Gillard said. “If you’re confident you can do it.”

This story was originally published on The Bucs’ Blade on November 9, 2021.