More girls playing youth football in Guam

Katy Clarke, Pacific Daily News

Brielle Naputi of the Southside 49ers throws the ball to a receiver during practice at the Jose Rios football field in Piti on July 28.(Photo: Kyle Twardowski/PDN)

The Guam National Youth Football Federation is not only experiencing a record amount of teams for its upcoming season, it’s also experiencing a record number of female participants. This year, the league is fielding 10 teams, and each team has at least one girl on the roster.

While it hasn’t been uncommon for a girl to play with the boys every now and then, having multiple girls on a team is rare.

“Right now we’re slowly getting girls more interested in playing football and this year we have girls in every division for the first time ever,” said the federation’s president, Ivan Shiroma. “Every organization has girls involved. They are getting more interested, especially in the lower divisions. I think that’s probably because of the women’s football league, I wish I could take credit.”

The Guam Women’s Tackle Football League recently wrapped up its fifth season. The women in the league play just as hard on the field as the men do in their league. They’ve become idols to young girls who want to play the game, and many of them are involved with the youth federation as coaches.

“It’s great to hear that the young girls of the youth league are inspired by the female players of GWTFL,” said Vanessa Olkeriil, the women’s league public relations officer. “We wonder who will be our Sam Gordon on Guam. If you don’t know who she is, we highly suggest looking her up. She is the perfect example of what GWTFL believes in, that American football may be a man’s sport but women can play just as well.”

What separates the girls of the youth league from the women of the adult tackle football league is that they play with, and against, the opposite gender. There will always be people who don’t agree with letting girls play with boys for one reason or another, but the youth league has always been open to the idea that girls have every right that boys do to play on the football field.

“I think it’s the right thing to do,” said Shiroma. “We aren’t going to not allow them and as long as the parents are fine with it, why not? We’ve seen some girls that are rougher than the boys. They can hang with them and we have no problems accepting them. Some of them are just as talented or even more talented.”

Shiroma pointed out Jalana Garcia, who played in the Matua Division last year. Garcia, a soccer and rugby standout at George Washington High School, is too old to play this year, but made an impact last season.

“She was more than willing to play against (the boys),” he said. “She was doing really well out there. She was pounding a lot of guys.”

All of the girls who play in the youth league have been told at one point in their lives that they couldn’t play football because of their gender, and they know they’ll likely be told that again. They could’ve quit because of this, but instead they’ve let it motivate them to be even better.

“The reason why I joined football was to experience something new in my life, because I am the first female football player in my family,” said Taylene Evaristo of the Southside 49ers. “What inspired me to play was to prove to my grandfather that girls can play football too. I also enjoy being on the team with my brother, because he encourages me to keep going and don’t quit.”

As the season nears, the girls of fall are ready to take the field and prove that they have what it takes to compete as football players.

Guam National Youth Football Federation kicks off its season on Aug. 6.

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