Girl suits up to play football at local junior high

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) For the first time in a long time, a girl suited up to play football for the Connally Independent School District this week.

(Photo by Bill Gowdy)

Raelin Womack, 12, made the seventh grade “B” team for Connally Junior High School and played in her first ever football game Thursday afternoon.

"I'm a Z receiver and corner,” she said. "I used to play with my little brother and older brother and I just loved it, how competitive and sweaty and stuff it is.”

Raelin admitted she was nervous going into her first organized game but had fun.

“I like to tackle the boys,” she said.

Not only did she play in her first game: she was a starter.

"Every time she plays she keeps moving up, and a lot of the boys have been praising her,” said Raelin’s mom Dawn Womack who also works at Connally ISD.

A school district official said Raelin wasn’t the first girl to ever play for Connally ISD but didn’t have exact numbers.

While it’s not unheard of, Head Coach and Athletic Director Shane Anderson said it’s definitely unusual for the district and something he hadn’t encountered in the four years he’s been with Connally.

"This is the first time we've had a young lady play since I've been here on our team,” said Anderson.

Anderson said when Raelin and her mom came to his office in the Spring, he admits he had some concerns.

"Anytime in that age group, you put a young lady with 60 or 70 boys, there's always concerns there, but she’s very mature,” said Anderson. “Our kids have handled it well, our coaching staff has done a great job down there at the junior high of making sure she's taken care of."

Raelin’s mom said safety is always a concern, but it’s a concern in everything kids do whether it be football or recess, and her daughter wants to do football.

"We've had our discussions we've made sure she understood she can get hurt that a lot of things can happen, she'll be the only girl, and so he (Anderson) said 'okay, as long as you understand everything we're good to go.’"

Anderson did request that Raelin attend their summer football camp at the end of the summer.

"I just told her if she was really serious about it to come to our football camp – she showed up, she did an unbelievable job, held her own, and then she showed up on the first day of school and has done a great job since,” said Anderson.

To do what she’s doing, Anderson said you have to be a special person with a lot of passion and desire to learn the game.

“She’s done unbelievable, I’m just super proud of her,” he said.

Data from Pop Warner shows 99 percent of its registered players are boys; when that’s expanded to include all youth football it’s estimated 25,000 girls currently play tackle football in the U.S.

While not many girls play the traditionally male sport, Raelin says if they want to, they should.

"Don't be worried, you just play your hardest and you can probably win,” said Raelin Womack.

Raelin, who also plays softball but says she likes football better, was disappointed her team tied its first game.

“We’re pretty competitive,” said her dad Jarod Womack.

Along with Raelin’s mother and nine-year-old brother Kaiden, the father was in the stands rooting his daughter on.

“I support her in whatever she does,” he said.

Although people are surprised when she tells them, Raelin said her friends have been very supportive.

“’(They say) They’re my number one fan,’” she said.

Her parents might disagree: they said they couldn’t be prouder of their daughter, and encouraged other girls to go for their dreams.

"For girls playing: if it’s really what you want, go for it,” said Dawn Womack.