(CBSDFW.COM) – When Madi Martin warmed up for a scrimmage at Arlington High School Friday night, she didn’t want to think about breaking ground this year as the first girl on the Southlake Carroll varsity football team.
She just wanted to focus on the game.
“I’m pumped. I’m ready to go,” she said with a smile.
She admitted she feels added pressure to perform as the only girl on the team.
If she’s nervous, though, head football coach Riley Dodge said it doesn’t show.
“We’re thrilled to have her,” he said, praising her skills and consistency.
Martin grew up curious about what it would be like to take the field.
“I’ve always loved football, always been a fan of it… and I was thinking about it, and I was like, well, why couldn’t I?” she said.
Her father, Bret Martin, said it never occurred to him to push his daughters toward a traditionally male game.
“I never saw this coming, never saw it coming,” he said. “It was ribbons and bows and ponytails.”
When Madi was in middle school, her parents were surprised to learn from the boys’ football coach that she’d asked about joining the team.
She started as a kicker. Two years later, she was playing cornerback and wide receiver.
Her father remembers watching her tackle an opponent during an eighth-grade game.
“She went and put her head right in his chest and took him down, and I thought to myself, ‘That’s my girl!’” he said.
After ninth grade, she quit football to focus on soccer, playing starting goalkeeper for the girls’ team for the last two years.
Now in her senior year, she decided to give the game another go.
“One of the third or fourth days I was on the job, when I was trying to figure out up from down, Madi came in,” said Dodge.
Despite some initial surprise over her interest in joining the varsity team, he said her talent was clear. “Regardless of if she’s a boy or girl, she’s a great player,” he said.
Madi sensed some resistance at first from her teammates.
“Some people were like, ‘Why is this happening? Why does she want to do this?’” she said. “Now they’re my bros, and we’re good now.”
The team has had to make some adjustments.
“Locker rooms, obviously,” said Madi. She gets dressed and ready on her own.
“For away games, I’ll just show up dressed,” she said.
Madi’s father also shared the story of when Coach Dodge first addressed the team as a whole.
“He said, ‘We’re going take care of our boys,’” Bret Martin said. “And, about half way through his speech, he goes ‘guys and girls’ and I could tell for one second he thought of Madi.
Martin insists he doesn’t care about ‘political correctness’ for the sake of his daughter.
“She can hold her own in any situation,” he said.
Madi plans to prove that with the football season beginning next week.
While she doesn’t want the extra attention to distract her, she does hope other girls who see her realize they can join the game, too.
“I think it’ll plant a seed,” she said.