Charlotte Albright was in uniform ready to go, but she had nowhere to play last week.
Albright, a backup kicker for the Summit middle school football team, was denied entry into a game between Summit and North Raleigh Christian Academy because she’s a girl.
Her mother, Carolyn Albright, took to social media by posting on Facebook after the game that her daughter, the first female football player in the history of Summit, was told before the game that she couldn’t play.
When reached by telephone Albright’s mother summed up her feelings about it.
“It was, quite frankly, shocking,” Carolyn Albright said.
In a close game, North Raleigh Christian Academy won 36-28 but even in the “fifth quarter” Albright didn’t play.
In middle school football after four quarters are played a fifth quarter can be played if both head coaches agree. It’s used for scrimmage purposes to get those players who didn’t play in the regular game a chance to play. The score is not kept and each side gets to run about 10 offensive plays that can include kicking.
Carolyn Albright said she was told that the conference in which North Raleigh Christian Academy plays doesn’t allow girls to play. Summit, however, isn’t in a conference and plays as an independent school.
“Coach (Ryan Mihalko) sat me down and was talking to me about how I can’t play and it really made him mad,” Charlotte said. “The whole team was really mad.”
Mihalko, a former player at Notre Dame who has been the head coach at Summit for the last 17 years, did not return a phone call seeking comment.
North Raleigh Christian Academy plays in the Big East Independent Middle School Football Conference as part of the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association.
Homar Ramirez, the executive director of the NCISAA, says his organization just handles high school football.
Ken Shaw, the athletic director at Summit, sent a team roster two days before the game to North Raleigh Christian Academy, and it included Charlotte, who is a seventh-grader.
“Our coaches handled a surprising and difficult situation within a very short window of time,” Shaw said in a statement. “At the same time, they modeled for their players’ incredible support for Charlotte.”
According to Shaw: “(Mihalko) was told by the North Raleigh Christian athletic director that ‘if that girl takes the field it will be a forfeit.’”
Steve Lykins, the athletic director at North Raleigh Christian Academy, said in a text that he never told Mihalko that Albright couldn’t play. He also said that he had the roster but didn’t notice Charlotte’s name on it and gave it to the public address announcer right before game time.
“Our concern was strictly about safety in the event a kicker’s snap is muffed, blocked, etc. where the ball is put into play, as was explained to (Mihalko),” Lykins said in a text. “I simply stated that we preferred she not play but explained that we would not tell any coach who to play.
“I did not tell the coach he could not play her. Again, we were only doing our due diligence to express a concern.”
Lykins also said the Big East Independent Middle School Football Conference does not have a rule that says girls can’t play.
“(Our conference) does not have a policy on this issue,” he said, “therefore we would not tell anyone they could not play somebody.”
Summit officials released a statement on Monday afternoon.
Nancy Tuohy, the director of advancement at Summit, said in a statement that the NCISAA doesn’t allow girls to play football.
“Some athletic associations, including the North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association (NCISAA), do not allow girls to participate in varsity football, regardless of position played,” Tuohy said. “Summit School is not a member of the NCISAA and is not, therefore, bound to these rules.”
Michael Ebeling, the head of school for Summit, said, “One of the defining values of the Summit community is inclusivity — belonging, being a part of, honoring and embracing the individual in the context of the larger whole. That cornerstone value was evidenced in the response of our students and coaches to this situation.”
Meanwhile, Charlotte said that up until last week she had not had any problems in other games. While she hasn’t played that much this season she never felt out of place until now.
“Other teams have acted like I’m just a dude on the team,” she said. “I really don’t care if they make a big deal or act like I’m just another person.”
The next hurdle for Albright will be on Oct. 13 when Raleigh Ravenscroft School plays at Summit. Raleigh Ravenscroft is also a member of the Big East Independent Middle School Football Conference and Shaw says he will be contacting that school before it makes the trip to Winston-Salem.
“We don’t want this to happen again,” Shaw said. “We hope to continue playing teams who are members of the NCISAA, including North Raleigh Christian Academy.”
Carolyn Albright said she’s amazed at the support her daughter has received from teammates and coaches.
“The team has been supportive from the beginning,” Carolyn said. “We knew we’d be breaking a mold, in a way. I told Charlotte … whenever you do something like this, you have to realize you’re going to get resistance. She said, ‘OK mom. I want to kick footballs.’”