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Autumn Asher (left) and Makayla Bowman participated in last week's football camp at North Laurel.

Photo by Tim Branstetter
Sentinel-Echo.com

Although Autumn Asher and Makayla Bowman have different styles and abilities, they share the same goal during football camp: To prove they can do anything boys can do.

While sitting in the bleachers during the first day of North Laurel’s camp, Asher encouraged Bowman to prove something to the other campers.

“I told her that we have to stand up and show the boys that girls can do anything they can do,” Asher said.

Asher is nine years old and will be playing her third season of Optimist Club football. After finding out another girl was playing, Asher decided to play and was coached by her dad.

When boys tell her that football is not for girls and suggest she should be in ballet, Asher does not back down.

“They say it’s a boys’ sport and I should be in ballet,” Asher said. “Then I say, ‘well, I can do it better than you so I wouldn’t be talking’.”

Although Asher looks up to her cousin, former North Laurel running back Shawn Asher, and she likes proving people wrong about girls playing football, she admits the reason she plays football is simple.

“I just like hitting people,” Asher said. “I just like football.”

Makayla Bowman, who is also nine years old, has never played football, but when North Laurel coach David Abbott visited her school she decided she would like to learn about the sport.

“I just wanted to learn about football,” Bowman said. “I am having a great time.”

Bowman said she started playing football when she and her dad found a football in a creek and he started teaching her how to throw.

Bowman admits football could be a dangerous sport, but she also feels with the right attitude and focus, it would not be that bad.

“Some people think it’s dangerous, but I think if you put your mind to it and you focus, then it’s probably not that dangerous.” Bowman said.”

Bowman, like Asher, does not let the negative comments from boys get her down or discourage her. She will quickly give them a history lesson.

“When a boy in line told me I couldn’t play football because it was for boys, I said ‘did you forget about all the women that stood up for something?’ ” Bowman said. “I told him that girls can do anything.”

Bowman and Asher first met in basketball camp and at first Bowman thought Asher was not too friendly, but they soon became good friends when they met again at football camp.

“In basketball camp she seemed a little mean,” Bowman said, “When my mommy told me she was a football player then I understood why she was mean because you have to be mean in football. In football we have been best friends.”

Abbott welcomes the girls to camp and admits he has not seen any differences between them and the boys.

“They are as athletic as anybody else,” Abbott said. “They run and move very well. They have been a great addition to the camp.”

Although some people might feel the chances of a girl playing football in high school are slim, Abbot mentioned the slim odds of any athlete playing at the college level and he also talked about the advantages of participating in the camp.

“The vast majority of these kids will not play college football,” Abbott said. “What they will gain from this is teamwork and the payoff of physically working hard to gain something. The things they will learn will help them out way on down the road whether they play in high school or not.”

If one of the girls approached Abbott about the unlikelihood of playing at the high school level, he would tell them the same think he would tell any camper.

“There will be opportunities everyday in practice,” Abbott said. “We don’t care if you’re rich, poor, black, white, male or female. We want to put the best group of kids on the field that give us the best opportunity to be successful.”

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