Junior Isabelle Perry was determined to play football. Michael Perry, Perry’s father, recalls her sneaking out of the
house to join early morning and evening practices. Michael Perry, while initially opposed to the idea of Perry playing football, has
come to the realization that what Perry is doing is “groundbreaking.” He now celebrates and supports Perry’s decision to play football.
Junior Isabelle Perry was determined to play football. Michael Perry, Perry’s father, recalls her sneaking out of the house to join early morning and evening practices. Michael Perry, while initially opposed to the idea of Perry playing football, has come to the realization that what Perry is doing is “groundbreaking.” He now celebrates and supports Perry’s decision to play football.
Ellie Palaian

Trailblazing linebacker Perry breaks barriers

Bucking Conventions
Bucking Conventions

Defying social norms, junior Isabelle Perry puts on her cleats, snaps on her helmet to start her warmup as a linebacker on the Midtown football team.

It’s uncommon for a girl to play high school football; Perry faced discouragement from her teammates and parents when she decided to join the team.

“There was slight pushback in the beginning when I joined the football team,” Perry said. “My parents were kind of in disbelief at the fact that I decided to join the football team, and they thought that I had gone off the deep end, but over time, they came to understand and value the decision I made and have become my biggest supporters.”

Michael Perry, Isabelle’s dad, said he was originally concerned when Perry brought up the idea of joining the football team.

“I was in shock and disbelief,” Michael Perry said. “My wife and I were initially adamantly opposed to Isabelle playing football, and we forbid her from playing. We were concerned for her safety. However, Isabelle was very persistent, and she did not give up. She snuck away for early morning and after-school practices, and workout sessions. At some point, I finally realized she was practicing with the team.”

Junior Isabelle Perry lines up on defense in a JV game against Carver on Sept. 21. Perry said her gender doesn’t matter to fans. “They more or less care about the [game] and how, as a player, you are going to help the school win,” Perry said. (Gigi Highlander)
An Asset on the Field and Team

Along with football, Perry also plays lacrosse, but she said football has a special feeling that no other sport can match.

“I wanted to hit someone; I wanted to tackle people and be rough without getting a call,” Perry said. “In lacrosse, you aren’t able to hit people; you aren’t able to tackle people; you aren’t able to trip people, but in football, it’s like an open field. You’re able to be aggressive and be dominant in showing the other player that you’re going to take them out and that you are the best. That’s what I crave from a sport.”

Michael Perry said he has noticed his daughter isn’t treated differently from the boys on the team and both players and coaches view her the same as other players.

“Isabelle is treated equally by her teammates and coaching staff,” Michael Perry said. “I have faith that the coaches are making the best player personnel decisions by placing the best player in each position for every circumstance to help Midtown make every defensive stop, make every first down and win every game.”

Assistant coach Tony Howell and the rest of the coaching staff extend the same courtesy to Perry as her teammates do.

“They treat her like a football player when she’s out there; they don’t take it easy on her; they’ll take her down on the field; she’ll get up and keep competing until it’s time to go,” Howell said.

Perry said if she were a guy on the team, she doesn’t think she would be treated any differently from how she is now. However, she said if she were a guy, her experience on the football team wouldn’t be as “special.”

“I have to work just as hard as the guys,” Perry said. “I push myself to not only compete with them, but work to try to be better than them. That’s what makes it worth it. I chose to be on the team because I wanted to challenge myself that much more, and imagining myself as someone else, who I’m not, would make the experience warped and not true to who I am.”

Despite being hesitant at first, Michael Perry said he is proud of her determination and hopes she motivates others to achieve their goals.

“When the time came for her first game, I had completely changed my mind and perspective over time, and now I am one of her biggest fans,” Michael Perry said. “What she is doing is groundbreaking. She [is] so driven, and she worked very hard to make the team, and she continues to work hard to try to get better and get as much playing time as possible.”

Sophomore Alexia Davis, who isn’t a football player, said Perry is an inspiration, and it is empowering to have a girl on the team.

“It’s absolutely amazing to have a girl on the football team,” Davis said. “I’m so happy I can say that my school has a girl on their football team. Being able to support a girl athlete in football is really cool, and it also provides many opportunities for other girls to pursue sports that aren’t as popular with female athletes.”

Throughout the season, Perry said she has started to feel more comfortable.

“In the beginning, I felt a bit out of place,” Perry said. “However, as time has gone on, and I’ve stayed committed to the team, I have gelled and have become close with the guys and have never looked back. We have a good time no matter what the practice plan is because we’re there for each other at the end of the day; we’re there for the team, regardless of the work we have to put in for the day.”

Junior defensive end Micah Whiskey agrees Perry has become closer with other players.

“Having a girl on the team doesn’t really feel like anything; it just feels like she’s one of us,” Whiskey said. “I compliment her for coming out to play and actually sticking around through the spring and summer and through the regular season and continuing to get better and better.”

Initially, Perry did not get very much playing time, but she gradually has started to earn more time on the field.

“She’s a go-getter,” Howell said. “Anytime you need somebody, she’ll be the first one to volunteer; she’ll be the first one to come out and play no matter if it’s her position or not, she’ll always volunteer to be out there.”

Perry hopes her hard work will pay off so she can continue to prove herself.

“I want to work harder than everyone there, and I want to show that I have what it takes to compete with anyone,” Perry said. “For my future in football, I want to get better, get more playing time and learn more technique.”

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About the Contributors
Cate Barton
Cate Barton, Sports Managing Editor
Cate Barton is a junior and this is her third year writing for The Southerner. She enjoys soccer, basketball, running and hanging out with friends. She is excited to continue writing for The Southerner.
Ellie Palaian
Ellie Palaian, Sports Managing Editor
Ellie Palaian is a senior and this is her third year on staff for The Southerner. She plays varsity soccer for Midtown High and is excited to write for the paper this year.

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