Not just a man's sport anymore
Football, like all other sports, is a great barometer by which to gauge a person’s physical abilities, endurance, toughness, fortitude and desire.
Every season, kids as young as 6 line up to register for sports leagues. But this season, a few young ladies have joined Lower Sussex’s Pop Warner football league in hopes of contributing to their respective teams.
Lauren Parramore, 13, of Ocean View and Roxana native Kelci Reins, 7, added their names to the lot and joined the Midgets and Mitey Mites divisions, respectively.
In their first year of contact football, both girls play and contribute to their teams. Reins plays quarterback for the Mitey Mites in their inaugural season, and Parramore earned a place on the second team on a 2-0 Midget squad as their tight end and defensive end.
The Midgets have won in convincing fashion since the season’s start Sept. 3 and league rules state that teams cannot run the score up, which forces the second team in earlier, so Parramore sees considerable time at the league’s highest level.
“I thought that I would be on the sideline, so I was surprised that I’ve played so much,” said Parramore. “My teammates have all been really supportive.”
Parramore has played soccer and softball but has always loved football. She begged her father for two years to let her play and finally this season, she got her chance. She could prove all the nay-sayers wrong and finally play the game she loves the most.
“When people tell me I can’t do something, then that makes me more determined,” said Parramore.
“She’s one of those kids that you can’t tell them that they can’t do something because she’ll go out and do it,” added her mother, Charlotte Parramore. “But she loves football so much that we wanted her to do what she wanted to do.”
The girls raised a lot of eyebrows by joining what has always been thought of as a man’s game, and some may not think they can play with the boys — but they can hold their own.
The fellows noticed Lauren Parramore’s football potential at a recent barbeque, as she zinged passes to kids in the yard, according to her mother.
“The men at the pig roast were amazed how well she threw,” said Charlotte Parramore. “She throws a nice spiral.”
Tossing the ball around the yard and suiting up for contact football are completely different things, but in the process of learning and playing the game she would have another great challenge — earning her teammates’ respect.
It didn’t take long for them to recognize what she was made of after seeing her first collision. She had to be made of iron — not because of the hit she doled out, but from the hit she absorbed from star running back Elijah Foreman.
“Elijah hit her so hard, but she dusted herself right off and didn’t complain,” said Charlotte Parramore. “I think she earned their respect with that.”
Lauren Parramore acknowledged that her teammates have been very accepting — and willing to school her along as well.
“As soon as she put the pads on she knew she was playing football,” said teammate Jake Coldiron, referring to Lauren Parramore’s collision with Foreman. “But she earned respect by showing up and sticking with it.”
In her first scrimmage, Lauren Parramore registered two tackles. And in the win against Milford on Sept. 10, she nearly sacked the quarterback on back-to-back plays.
“She showed everyone that girls can play,” said teammate Mike Horton.
Reins’ teammates have held her and her play in high regard as well.
“She’s a good quarterback and she knows what she’s doing,” said Dominic Bennett. “It’s pretty cool that she would play football too.”
In one early-season game, Lower Sussex’s Midgets were destroying Milford, which gave Lauren Parramore and the rest of the reserves an opportunity to play. Parramore lined up against a Milford tight end who dwarfed her in size and strength, but she remained competitive on every play — despite getting knocked on her behind every once in awhile.
Most of her teammates — and her opponents for that matter — have several more years’ football experience, leaving plenty of room to catch up. But her teammates and friends have gone the extra distance to make sure she’s on the same page.
Parramore commented that some girls thought that she wanted to play football to be around guys. But she was very clear that she is serious about football. If a teammate calls her, it isn’t to go out on a date — it’s to review offensive and defensive assignments.
Her friend Steve Novak teaches her some extra things and Reins also gets a little extra help as well — from her 13-year-old brother, Justin.
“My brother plays too,” said Reins, “and he even helps me practice. He let me hit him as hard as I could, so that helped.”
In addition to playing quarterback, Reins also plays softball and lacrosse, and practices karate after school. Next year, she might play soccer — if there’s time.
“I’m so young that I don’t like to turn anything down,” said Reins. “I’ve met a lot of new friends playing football and I like to play.”
Both girls have had their fair share of challenges playing a new sport. But adversity makes people or it breaks them, and Parramore has worked through struggles before — not on the playing field, but in the classroom.
As a third-grader, she couldn’t read aloud and had comprehension problems when reading silently, causing her to flunk tests. Parramore transferred to Lighthouse Christian School in Dagsboro and since has seen positive results in not only her academics but overall health.
“She has gained a lot of confidence since coming to Lighthouse Christian,” said Charlotte Parramore. “They play a mix of sports every day, and they really put an emphasis taking care of their bodies.”
Parramore also is an ace at computing calculus — as a seventh-grader. She loves math, and if her professional football career doesn’t pan out she can always rely on a degree in forensic science.
“She says she sees numbers in the equations,” explained Charlotte Parramore.
Both girls echoed one common statement about whom they are: they aren’t quitters.
“I’m going to go all the way on this,” said Reins. “I wasn’t born to be a quitter — nobody was.”
“My parents didn’t raise me to be a quitter and I have confidence in myself,” said Lauren Parramore.
With that attitude, there isn’t a defense or a towering tight end that can hold them back from their goals. Their accomplishments today will help them tomorrow, in whatever challenges they decide to tackle.