Playing ball like a girl

I don't know if I have ever been more inspired than I have been in the past couple months. In just my few months a sports reporter here at the Atascadero News and Paso Robles Press, I have covered multiple stories of brave, beautiful, bold young women venturing out into typically male-dominated sports and have not just competed, but have outshined many of their male counterparts. That doesn't even take into account different things that I have heard throughout the community and even things happening on a national stage. It finally seems that women are getting their chances and they are absolutely killing it and I couldn't be happier. One of the first videos I ever put out with the Atascadero News was an interview with Trista Loftus, who is a freshman cheerleader at Atascadero High School. That, by itself, isn't necessarily newsworthy. What makes Loftus so special is that she is an MMA fighter, and not just any MMA fighter, she is one of the best in the country. She has multiple title fights lined up and finishes nearly all her fights with an armbar, just like Ronda Rousey used to do. She even told me a story, and I mentioned it in previous articles, that she actually broke another girl's arm in a fight because she started trying to roll out of it and didn't tap. It was an accident though, Loftus is as sweet as they come. But how cool is that?

For the last two weeks I have been working on a story on Makaylie Howell, a female freshman football player that plays at Atascadero High School. She’s one of the team's kickers, but is also one of their best offensive lineman! When doing research for the story I spent time talking with her head coach and he told me a story about their first game of the season. In the game, which was her first ever, Howell played the entire game and never asked to come out a single time, while nearly every other player on the team was asking for a breather or a break.

I try to think if I have ever done anything that brave, and the answer is flatly, no, not even close. I am a white man working in sports journalism, I’ve never had to break through any barriers, I’ve never had to deal with people alluding to the fact that I don't belong. But here are these two teenaged girls doing badass things (am I allowed to say that? I guess we’ll see) everyday, but the best part is, even though they are excelling in their contact sports, they haven't lost their femininity — their smiles still light up any room they enter and it is so inspiring to see.

It gets even better: this last spring I was covering a softball game in Paso Robles when I overheard Mr. Rich Clayton, the District Athletic Director of Paso Robles, saying that there were upwards of ten girls participating in wrestling in the elementary levels that will soon become Bearcats! I immediately handed him my card and asked to set up a meeting (which led to the article on Paso Robles elementary schools providing sports for kids grades four through six free of charge) where he again confirmed to me that this was true.

This change in culture is happening nationwide (as many of you know I am a huge football fan) and the National Football League played its first set of regular season games last weekend. There were two games on Monday night, and if you were paying attention to the second one, you would have noticed a female voice coming through your speakers. Thats right, Beth Mowins called the Broncos and Chargers game and did a fantastic job despite what angry men on the internet will tell you who can't wrap their minds around the fact that a woman knows more about football than they do.

I would be remiss if I wrote a column on women in this county killing it in male dominated demographics without mentioning the talented sports director of KSBY, Jessica Vo. Jessica can be seen every Friday night going through the local high school football packages on Friday Night Highlights, and at just about any important high school sport event in SLO county.

I don't want to sell any of these ladies short by saying their accomplishments are amazing because I believe that indicates a certain level disbelief in their abilities, but I will say that it is unprecedented and inspiring and I can't wait to see it continue in an upward trend. These girls have inspired me to keep chasing my dreams no matter how lofty or unattainable they might seem and I hope they can do the same for you.


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