Kansas City Soccer Players Want Girls To Know The Sport Is ‘For Everyone’ | KCUR 89.3
When not at her job with the Kansas City Chiefs, Sheila Sickau is a wide receiver and kicker for Kansas City Glory, a women’s football team.
Football is not new to Sickau as it is to many of her teammates. She started playing in high school, when she was the only girl on the team. Sickau didn’t play with the boys because she wanted to – she played with them because it was the only option she had and she loved the game.
In the future, Sickau said, there should be all-female football teams for high school students.
âA lot of girls don’t necessarily want to play on the men’s team,â said Sickau. âIt’s just the only thing offered to them. If you can get a high school team made up of all the girls to play, it will start with the flag first, generate that interest, and then it will start to evolve.
After high school, Sickau believed his football days were over. She went to college and ran on the track, but soccer was still her passion. In 2014, Sickau was working as a special education teacher in Knoxville, Tennessee. The manager told her about women’s football teams and she was delighted to hear that such a thing existed. She tried the Knoxville Lightning and was successful. She hasn’t looked back since.
Football was life-changing for Sickau, who went on to earn a master’s degree in sports administration and then interned with the Chiefs, which took her to Kansas City and the Glory, which she now calls family. Sickau works full time for chefs as a representative of business administration and has connected chefs and fame.
Sickau said girls started to be introduced to and interested in the sport earlier, which she said will lead to more girls pursuing careers in football.
âGirls need to know that they are capable of anything and have the same opportunities,â Sickau said. âHe finally starts to roll with the flag and to have the ball in his hands, to do exercises, just the IQ and the knowledge, the language of football. It is more and more common among young girls and they want to do it. They are starting to see it on TV with the amazing women in the NFL and the posts. And if they see it, they can be.
Sickau says the game teaches good values ââand sportsmanship regardless of the gender of the player.
âThe flag is the basis of all other sport, like comparing it to basketball. You always work as a team, it’s always agility, âsaid Sickau. âYou’re still on offense and defense learning this concept of working together as a unit. It is the basis of a sport. It’s just a different ball in their hands, you shouldn’t be afraid of that.
Tackle football, on the other hand, allows for greater body diversity among players, Sickau said, adding that girls should also have the chance to play tackle.
âThe beauty of football is that there is a role for everyone – every body type is needed. Wide receivers, quarterbacks, running backs, can’t do anything without your o line. And this line online, generally these types of girls have a hard time in other sports to be as productive as they are in soccer, âshe said. âSo everyone has their place. Everyone has a role. You are just as meaningful as the person next to you. And girls can’t find that in a lot of other sports.
Women 18 and older (or younger, if they have a waiver from their parents) have a chance to participate in tackle football during the Kansas City Glory team trials on Nov. 6.
KeKe Blackmon, the team’s head coach, said no previous experience was needed for the trials. Several women on the team had never played football before joining, she said.
“We will take their football IQ up a notch and they will learn a lot from us,” Blackmon said of the people who try. “As far as tackling goes, it’s a very safe sport because we do it that way.”
Blackmon is immensely proud of the women she coaches, but humble about her own accomplishments in the game. She has played competitive football for 11 seasons, and in addition to coaching for Glory, Blackmon coaches freshman boys. at Olathe East High School.
She started playing tackle football in 2008 with the Kansas City Tribe and became the team’s captain the following year. Among many other awards and accolades, Blackmon became the United States gold medalist when, as team captain, she led the Dallas Diamonds to victory at the 2013 IFAF Women’s World Championship. During those years, Blackmon met Jen Welter, the NFL’s first coach.
On October 17, Blackmon, Welter and Kansas City Glory players hosted a flag football camp at Legends Field for girls ages 6-18. This was an extension of Welter’s Grrrdirion Girls National Tour to Flag Training Camps for Girls.
Like Sickau, Blackmon also lacked football opportunities as a young girl, which is one of the reasons these training camps and coaching mean so much to her.
âIt just means everything to see what we’ve done manifest in little humans and young women who really want to play this game and make it better like we’ve done,â Blackmon said. “It makes me feel so good.”
Blackmon said she would love to see flag football offered to high school girls because at this point they can usually only play competitive football if they join the boys’ team like Sickau did.
âWe’re not trying to go on the pitch with them,â Blackmon said of the men’s teams. âAt least I’m not. I’m not coaching for (Kansas City Glory) to go to the field with the men, I coach them to go to the field with each other and show that we have as much light and just as much courage as the men in this. Game.”
Syreeta Gapelu, who will play defense when the Glory’s next season kicks off in the spring, said her teammates have strengthened her and helped her be a better role model for her children.
âWe are like a family,â said Gapelu. âI love the game. I’m a single mom and I’m very busy with my kids, with them playing sports. So for me, being active outside of my kids is like therapy for me.
Kansas City Glory defensive back Rocky Ray was named Rookie of the Year last season. Before joining Glory, Ray had never played soccer, but she watched her brothers play and always wanted to.
âSport is for everyone,â said Ray. âFor all the people who grew up in a time when this game isn’t for girls or anything, give them a chance. See what they look like, because things are not the same as they used to be. Girls are a lot harder than people think, I think we are tougher than boys.