Mikayla Oden, who turns 18 on Oct. 25, is a wide receiver on her football team at Cedarville High School in Arkansas. “My dad calls me his first-born son,” she jokes, telling Yahoo Lifestyle.
With her father, a former semipro football player, as her coach, Mikayla was born and bred for the sport. “She came home from the hospital as a newborn with a toy football,” her father, Brannon Oden, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
The teen, who has been nominated multiple times for homecoming queen and was crowned homecoming princess in 2014, began playing full-contact football on all-male teams in third grade. However, securing her place among her male peers, has been challenging. “It’s been a battle since she was young,” says Brannon. “Each year, I’ve had a sit-down conversation with the coaches who never had a girl on their teams.”
As wide-receiver, Mikayla is expected to run fast and catch passes from the quarterback at a distance. However, she has no fear about holding her own on the field, despite the occasional sexist comment from a player or attempt to “knock her down” harder than usual during games. “I try to look like the boys by French-braiding my hair and tucking it into my shoulder pads,” says Mikayla. “The other team doesn’t know I’m a girl until they look at my face.”
But whatever hardships Mikayla experiences as the only female football player at her school have a positive payoff. “A coach thanked me for Mikayla inspiring his own daughter to play football,” says Brannon. And Mikayla is mentoring a younger female football player by giving her tips and attending her Little League games.
Mikayla is among other teen trailblazers. Alicia Woollcott, 17, who was just voted homecoming queen at Grand Blanc High School in Michigan, is also the only female player on her football team, with the ability to squat 300 pounds, bench-press 175, and dead-lift 335, according to MLive.com.
— GrandBlancSchools (@GBCSBobcats) October 7, 2017
And Megan Downard, a 17-year-old in Kentucky, has earned a varsity letter in football, despite battling leukemia in the third grade, reports the Northern Kentucky Tribune. A few weeks ago, the honor student was also crowned homecoming queen, a title she accepted in full uniform.
There’s no rule that girls have to wear both a crown and a helmet — but they also don’t have to choose.
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