Senior girl kicks for varsity team


Molly Gutshall, Reporter

Abi Sweger, senior, is taking her soccer skills to the football field and kicking extra points for the Big Spring High school football team. This season, Sweger has kicked 8 field goals, shocking her opponents and everyone in the stands. Cory Hoffman, football coach, said, “Abi provides our team with a consistent kicker for PATs and short field goals.  The team has embraced her and gets excited when she’s successful. She’s been really positive for our team.” Plus, Hoffman said, “Abi has done a great job stepping into a difficult role. There’s a ton of pressure involved in being a placekicker. She’s handled that very well.” Sweger said, “Being under Friday Night Lights is hard to beat. It gets you pumped with adrenaline, especially with the student section.”

Some may wonder how the atmosphere of an all-boys football team has changed when a girl is added to the roster. Sweger said, “Being the only girl on the team has never really been a big deal to me. Since I was on the wrestling team, I am used to being around a group of guys all the time. Plus they’re all very friendly and welcoming.” Wide receiver, Gavin Pritchard said, “No one else can kick and she can.” When asked about the environment with Sweger on the team Pritchard said, “They chant her name a lot when she kicks.” In addition, Hoffman said, “I honestly don’t see any changes in the environment.  Everyone has a role in football and Abi performs well in her role. There are no more and no fewer expectations for performance.” The feelings of other players also must be taken into consideration when discussing the topic. Pritchard said, “It must be hard being the only girl on the team, but I’m proud of her.”

PIAA does not state football as a girls sport, only a boys. According to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, of the 5.5 million Americans who report playing tackle football, 596,000 — or 10.9 percent — are female. However, only 4% of wrestlers are girls, Sweger being one. Along with Lyra Clark, Sweger has been a great addition to Big Spring’s wrestling team. Sweger said, “Football and wrestling are very different. Wrestling is a bit more nerve-racking for me because I don’t always know what I’m getting myself into, where in football I have guys blocking for me so I don’t get hit.” Head wrestling coach Nate Gutshall, said, “She is just a good teammate and good person to have around. She works extremely hard and is a model citizen to have around.” Coach Gutshall said, “We welcome any and all ladies to the wrestling team. Girls’ wrestling is becoming bigger and bigger. Many colleges are adding it as its own sport.”

Coach Hoffman said, “I’m open to all who want to commit to football. It’s a great sport to challenge yourself.  We don’t care if you are a veteran or have never played, in perfect physical condition or not a perfect athlete, male or female; there’s a place on the team that you can contribute.” The amount of girls around the world playing football and wrestling is continuing to increase, just as it is at Big Spring High School.