Opportunity: Angels football team grants playing chances for girls
Members of the Angels all-girls football team high-five during their inaugural game. Head coach Barbara Calchera said the girls are “gelling really well so far.” (Travis Barton/City Journals)
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By Travis Barton | firstname.lastname@example.org
You probably didn’t know Canyon School District (CSD) had a girls football team that practices at Midvale City Park. You will now.
Until a few months ago, the Angels football team didn’t exist, but now the 16-member team is made up of girls from eighth to 12th grade from across CSD. Led by head coach Barbara Calchera, the Angels are a part of the Utah Girls Tackle Football.
“It’s seeing the children…feeling like they have grown and accomplished something, gotten faster, catching more balls. That's always what drives me,” Calchera said.
Calchera, a lifelong lover of football who has attended USA football camps, said she felt she didn’t have a chance to play when she was younger. Now, she’s coaching a team of girls who do.
“I love it so much. My driven nature is why I’m here and my love for girls having opportunity,” she said.
One of them, Maddy Calchera, used to play with a boys team. She said after suffering through a negative experience that included a sexual assault, she’s found the right place with her new league and team.
“It was a really nice opportunity to play in a safe environment and a much more positive environment,” Maddy, a sophomore, said.
That environment involves a level of acceptance for girls’ appearance.
“It’s definitely really inclusive for all body types,” Maddy, who plays center, said. “Bigger girls like me have a place because we can plow down other girls, skinnier girls that are faster have a place because they can run the ball and in-between girls [size] can be linebackers or the bigger running people.”
Assistant coach Quinn Wesley, who plays center for the championship winning Falconz, said it helps girls to be comfortable in their own skin.
“A girl who people deem might be too skinny or too small can come out here and, all of a sudden, she starts to feel good about herself because she ran the right route or made the right block,” Wesley said.
The girls have also provided support for each other.
“There’s no bullying. You don’t have to worry about your insecurities here. Everyone’s open minded and works hard to motivate each other,” said Lesli Lopez, a sophomore running back from Hillcrest High School.
It’s Lopez’s first year playing football. With many of the girls participating in the sport for the first time, it’s an opportunity during the eight-game season to soak up knowledge not only about the game, but about life.
“And if we win? Great. But, most importantly, I want them to learn life skills by participating with this team and, if I accomplish those, I’ll be happy,” Barbara said.
Players and coaches said the game teaches character development, determination, health habits, strategy, teamwork and provides a haven from personal issues. Maddy said it even assists in anger management.
“You get to hit people for fun and its totally legal,” she said with a laugh.
Allaynah Tau, a Jordan High School sophomore, plays guard for the Angels. She also competes in softball, basketball and volleyball. She recently returned two weeks earlier than expected from an injured ankle she suffered while playing volleyball.
“I love sports, that’s all I do is sports," she said. Tau has found another opportunity for it with the Angels.
While the team plays its games every Saturday at Westland Elementary in West Jordan, the team practices at Midvale City Park, which came about after Calchera and league advocate Brent Gordon approached the city council for permission to use the field.
“We're thankful,” Calchera said of Midvale City. “This is a great opportunity for the girls, for them opening their arms and letting us participate here.”
Two other teams could follow suit also calling the park their practicing field.
A fledgling league, it’s continuously growing whether it’s Lopez and Tau being recruited by their friends or new teams being added. Players and coaches urged other girls interested to come check it out.
Wesley said, “it’s a great environment, people should come check it out,” while Tau added for girls to “come experience and see what's going on cause it's really fun.”