Hail to the Queen: A 17-year-old football player traded in a helmet during a recent halftime ceremony for a more delicate style of headwear: a homecoming queen's crown.
Kathy Aldrich, the only female player on the team at Patrick County High School in Stuart, Va., accepted her crown at halftime during a rainy game last month while still dressed in her Cougars football uniform.
"I was shocked and excited," said the defensive tackle, who hopes to attend Virginia Military Academy or the University of Nebraska next year.
The 12th grader, who began fooling around with the pigskin as a young girl and strapped on the shoulder pads competitively in 8th grade, names the Nebraska Cornhuskers as her favorite college team.
"I really love the game, and I told my dad I wanted to play in high school," she said. "At first, my parents asked me if I was sure this is what I wanted to do. After I told them it was, they were my biggest supporters."
So how are the young men accustomed to a girl-free gridiron responding to taking the field with a homecoming queen?
"They realized that I was out there playing a game just like they were," she says.
The National Federation of State High School Associations, based in Indianapolis, says 658 of the approximately 1.3 million high school football players last year were female. The number of football teams with girl players edged up from 176 in the 1998-99 school year to 187 last year, said Margaret Kantz, an association spokeswoman.
Vol. 20, Issue 6, Page 3