Gender roles are challenged and accepted all in the same weekend.
This photo essay captures 7th grade girls from Georgia who take on the boys in an otherwise all male flag football league on Saturdays. Then on Sundays, they head en masse to the southern tradition of cotillion classes. Scrapes are covered in makeup, eye black is replaced by eye liner, and muddy cleats are swapped for black flats.
On Saturdays, the girls fought hard for a 1-7 record. Their coach, Steven Sweigart, was impressed with the girls: “Coaching these girls was one of my favorite experiences with the game of football. It’s a demanding sport that requires each player to do their job during every play. Even though the girls didn’t know football when they started and they got pushed around in the beginning, they kept fighting. These girls never gave up and impressed me every week. They are beautiful warriors.”
On Sundays, the girls take out their ponytails and don their cocktail dresses and name tags for cotillion at the local country club. Cotillion is a series of classes popular in the South that offer instruction in manners, deportment, social graces, and dancing.
With the girls cleaned up and blown dry, scrapes and bruises can still be seen on legs and faces from the day before. But today they aren’t blocking and tackling the boys; they are accepting their arms to lead them to the dance floor and following their lead in the cha cha.
The girls seem to revere the camaraderie and challenge of football and endure the directives of cotillion. One emphasizes manners and acting like nice southern ladies and the other completely the opposite.
“I go to cotillion because my mom makes me. I hate wearing a fancy dress and shoes, but it is fun since my friends are all there” explains Logan Speckhart, a receiver on the team.
Parents saw changes in the girls as the football season progressed, “I saw her confidence soar after she saw that she could compete with boys her age who have played football for years.” Jennifer Ford, parent of Gracie.
When asked if the girls had any trouble with the boys playing against girls, Gracie Ford said, “No, but they didn’t think we were going to be as good as we were.”
Well played, ladies.