Hair up and not backing down

After coming to the conclusion that no other sports interested her, sophmore Meidy Zhang joined the DBHS football team.

The idea of being the only girl on Diamond Bar High School’s football team  was a challenge Meidy Zhang wanted to take on. Now she plays on  the junior varsity team and ocasionally put in during varsity games as well.

“At first, …the boys were like ‘Oh, she’s probably the water girl or something’ and just put me to the side,” Zhang said. “But once you practice with them and get to know them, they are pretty cool.”

While having multiple friends that were apart of the sport, Zhang was encouraged to join the team.  Despite having no football experience and being shorter than the average football player, Zhang decided she was willing to tackle and be tackled.

“The feeling when you are first tackled is like when you were little and you trip or fall or something but with slightly more pressure, it’s not that bad,” Zhang said.  “It looks worse than it is.”

Zhang began her football journey by doing conditioning, and later moved on to learn different football techniques. She  plays cornerback, a position in the defensive backfield, and hopes to eventually become a starter.

“When practice first started, I couldn’t catch or run as fast as them [teammates] and I was a lot weaker…so, it was kind of intimidating at first,” Zhang said.

To even be able to practice football during the summer was an arduous process for Zhang. The sophomore needed to make sure both her parents and head football coach Jeff Reitz were on board with the idea of her joining the team as a female.

Zhang’s mother agreed to the idea in hopes that her daughter would eventually quit, according to Zhang.

As for Reitz, she said he warned her that he would not go easy on her despite the disadvantages she faced in  playing a male-dominated sport.

“As I play more and show that I am committed, coach Reitz has given me more respect and so has the team,” Zhang said.

Although being the only girl on the team might seem lonely, Zhang said that she and the boys get along like most teammates.

For example, she is allowed in the boys’ locker room before games to bond with the rest of the team, and she said that she is comfortable around all the boys on and off the field.

“On Fridays before games, where we have some time to relax and sleep in the locker room, I’m allowed in the boys’ locker room as long as they’re not sleeping or changing,” Zhang said. “If I’m bored just being in my own locker room, and I hear them hanging out and having fun next door, I’ll go to their locker room and hang out with them.”

Most of Zhang’s opponents don’t realize that there’s a ponytail under her helmet until after the game.

“They look through your mask, they tackle you, but they can’t exactly tell that you’re a girl,” Zhang said. “So, they’re slightly confused after the game.”