The Female Quarterback Who Broke A Gender Barrier In High School

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Imagine the NFL as a co-ed sporting league. Sound weird? Well it might right now, but don’t count on it staying the way it is forever, if the next generation of American football stars is any indication of what is going to happen.

Currently, there aren’t any female football players in the NFL, and the coverage of female sports in general is pretty dismal. But with the news of Becky Hammon being the first paid female coach in the NBA regular season, it seems the other major sporting leagues (NFL, NHL and MLB) might not be far behind, both on the field and off.

We are seeing more and more gender barriers being broken by younger generations who are less constrained by traditional boundaries. This is why we believe you can never underestimate youth, because they hold the power to cause generational changes.

Erin DiMeglio became the first female quarterback in Florida, playing for the South Plantation High School Paladins. The New York Times wrote about her startling appearance in 2012 in one of the most beloved pasttimes in the US and how she is turning heads on the field.

“When the Seminole Ridge Community High School announcer told the crowd Erin DiMeglio was at quarterback, there was little reaction, because the name Erin, when pronounced, does not connote a gender. But then everyone saw her ponytail swaying as she jogged onto the field. Then there was some buzz. Is that the girl? Can she play? Can she throw?” writes Adam Himmelsbach. The answer to all three questions according to her coach Doug Gatewood is a resounding yes, which is why she is on the team.

The 17 year old grew up playing football with her police officer father Tom, and she was always trying to emulate her fave football star, and Miami Dolphins legend Dan Marino. When we read that in the article, we couldn’t help but imagine 10 years down the road when another female quarterback will be using Erin DiMeglio as her point of reference for a player to emulate.

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“My friends all think I’m crazy,” she said. “But they also think it’s pretty cool.”

Erin also played on the high school girls team, but apparently the other girls on the team get a little upset because she “throws too hard”. Huh, guess that whole “throw like a girl” mantra has clearly been proven wrong, yet again!

She was invited to play on the boys team after taking part in the boys practice during the off-season. She didn’t take long to prove to any potential naysayers she belonged with the boys.

“We’d be warming up, and people would stop over and wait for her to throw to see if she could play,” the Paladins’ starting quarterback, John Franklin, said. “And then they’d walk away like, ‘Oh, they have a girl, and she’s for real.’ ”

Erin has now graduated from high school and aside from making history by breaking a gender ceiling during her time at South Plantation, she was also named homecoming queen. She has certainly proven there is nothing girls cannot do, and the time of putting men and women into stereotyped boxes from a young age should be well and truly over.

The boys Erin played with had no problem running alongside a girl, and considered her “one of the team.”

“Girls can do anything we can do,” South Plantation starting quarterback John Franklin, who signed with Florida State in February, told the Sun Sentinel. “Hard work trumps any gender. She went through everything we went through. Everything we had to do, she had to do and she did.”

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Since her debut on the boys high school football team, Erin’s story has made the pages of Sports Illustrated Kids, People magazine, she has appeared on Nickelodeon, and even been awarded a $20,000 scholarship from Foot Locker and DoSomething.org.

Her story is similar to that of Mo’Ne Davis who became the first girl to pitch a starting game shutout in the Little League World Series, and only the 17th girl in history to compete at such a level.

The point of making such a fuss about this story is because A) there aren’t enough of these out there, and B) female representation is important, and highly lacking in certain areas.

The fact that a 17 year old girl didn’t think being a girl was a barrier to becoming the next Dan Marino is a telling sign: these are the attitudes that need to be fostered in girls and it needs to start while they are young.

In the ABC News video below about Erin shows how some adults are stuck in the gender steretyped world, when the male anchor at the end jokes whether she gets her own dressing room. Really?!? That’s the FIRST thing that comes to mind? Good thing the second male anchor swooped in and made a timely joke about how one of the major NFL teams could do with some help from a quarterback like her.

C’mon world, let’s get progressive, let’s throw of the gender constraints that only tie us down, and let’s encourage the next generation of world changers to go forth without any hindrances.

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