Who says girls can’t play football?
Certainly not 14-year-old Makaylie Howell. She’s breaking gender barriers in the sport by being the only female on the Atascadero High School football team.
Howell grew up playing soccer and other sports but never considered football. It wasn’t until a strength and conditioning weightlifting class over the summer that the idea came to her.
"It just seemed so much fun and everything, I just wanted to be a part of something you know, bigger," Howell said.
Playing football would become the very beginning of many challenges for Makaylie. The 5’7",155-pound freshman would have to learn the sport, the playbook, and the drills all while being the only girl on the team. "With all the guys, I’ve gotten used to it. It’s hard but it’s something that you can’t change. I feel like I made a name for myself here and it’s only going to get better. I’m just happy that I am part of a team and I will keep building and getting better."
Howell’s determination and courage earned herself a spot as the Greyhounds kicker and starting left tackle.
"She’s one of our best linemen. She’s got great feet, she moves her feet well and that’s really important for a lineman to do," said Ben Tomasini, Atascadero head coach. "I think she’s a highly courageous young lady. There can be a stigma, but she didn’t blink. She tackled it, came after it, and said this is what I want to do. And she never looked back. I think that takes an incredible amount of courage."
Breaking gender barriers runs in the family, Howell’s mother also played football in high school.
"I don’t feel like your gender necessarily disqualifies you from any sport. I played too, ultimately it was her decision. she really wanted to embrace it and go out there. I am literally so proud of her," said Nikole Howell, Makaylie’s mother.
"Everything great has challenges, you just have to push past them," Howell said.