Olivia Kemp was tired of “normal” sports and was prepared to try something different. She decided to try football and proved to everyone she was right where she belonged.
Olivia, a Smith-Cotton Junior High eighth grader, was primarily a kicker for the eighth grade football team, but when needed she also played offense and defense. She said that at first, the team was nervous around her. Eighth grade football coach Brian Foster said, “At first I believed there might of been some resentment, but after the first practice about being a team there were no problems.” Olivia said after the boys saw she was there to work and play the game, they accepted her. She added that the boys helped protect her during games.
Olivia’s friends didn’t believe she would be able to follow through with her plan. After they realized how serious she was about it they all supported her and came to all of her games to cheer her on. Olivia’s mother, Sheri Kemp, was very skeptical about her playing football. Her father, Phil, also was nervous about her being on the field with all the boys, but he loved that she was playing a sport he once did.
“I’m super proud of her,” Phil said. “She picked a hard sport to play, especially being a girl.”
He also said Olivia had to overcome many emotional obstacles, but she never complained once. Foster also said that the team all rooted for her and treated her like she was one of the guys.
Olivia worked with Blake Grupe, Smith-Cotton High’s varsity kicker, over the summer. Just like Grupe, Olivia is a soccer player. She said kicking a soccer ball and kicking a football are two totally different things. It was all about power.
“Blake taught me the basics,” Olivia said. “He knew what I was going through; he was like a coach that I could relate to.”
Jack Greer, who was a female kicker for S-C’s varsity football team in 2010, said playing football was a great experience. Greer said she developed relationships with the coaches and players; they treated her like any other teammate.
“My advice to Olivia is to not let anyone say anything to her that will get her down,” Greer said. She added that she stayed strong and proved that she belonged and was no different than the other players.
Olivia never thought she would get so much attention from playing football. A woman at her church called her a hero.
“I never knew this would happen,” Oliva said, “I just wanted to play the game, but for someone to call you their hero, that’s crazy; it doesn’t happen.”
Olivia plans on playing football throughout her high school career. She wanted to make sure the boys knew how much she appreciates them.
“The guys are awesome,” Olivia said, and she thanked them “for letting me be on the team.”
Randi Ulmer is a Smith-Cotton High School student.