Monday, November 24, 2008

More Than 5 Questions With A Kicker

There have been a few stories of women and girls playing football with the fellas recently. Megan at …Because I Played Sports brought us the story of Kacy Stuart and I found the video above of another talented young woman that plays with the guys. About two weeks ago, coach Manny Ojeda called me to tell me about a new player that would be joining the Southern California Breakers this season that he knew I just had to interview. Her name is Joy Barry. She’s been playing soccer her entire life and has also been playing football with the boys and mens teams since she was in high school.

Joy grew up in Thousand Oaks, California and attended Ventura College. In fact, she was named a College Athlete of the Year in 1998 to the Ventura County Sports Hall of Fame. She’s one of three children with a father that played football as a high school QB and briefly in college. Sports are definitely a life’s passion for this talented athlete that is another testament that good things also come in smaller packages. At 5’4 ½” tall, her ability is much larger than her stature. Her profession as a hairdresser allows her the flexibility to pursue her soccer and football dreams.

Being an early bird like me, Joy stopped kicking the ball long enough to talk to me at 7:00 am on a Saturday to answer a few more than five questions:

Did you start playing sports when you were young?

Yeah, I originally started playing sports when I was only 4 years old. I started as a soccer player and continue to play even today. I excelled quickly at the sport and was even put on teams with players much older (3-4 years) than I was.

How did you start playing football?

I transitioned to football during my freshman year of high school. I was asked to play since many of the players and coaches had seen me play soccer. They thought I was quite good and could really kick a ball so they had the idea that I would make a good place kicker. The head coach approached me to go and ask my parents if it was okay for me to come and try out for the team. My father was completely behind the idea and my mother was a bit protective thinking that her baby would get hurt.

How were you accepted by the other players on the team?

I was already popular from being a varsity soccer player as a freshman so I found that I was accepted for the most part. However, some of the guys were like, “are you serious?” They were the ones that looked at me like, “oh, she’s just some girl”. They didn’t believe I could actually kick a ball. I definitely won them over and won their respect. For example, I wasn’t just “the kicker” I participated in every part of practice and did all of the things that were expected from the entire team. I stayed the entire practice each time and participated in a lot of the drills since I would be expected to make a tackle if someone broke through. At about 5’4” and only 112 pounds at the time, I wanted to make sure that I could take a hit if I needed to. In fact, in my sophomore year I had to make a tackle. All I remember is my whole team coming over to me and picking me up to excitedly carry me off the field. The young man that I hit wasn’t so celebratory. He was actually quite embarrassed for the rest of high school since he was the guy that “got tackled by a girl”.

So the only position you played in high school was as a place kicker? How long was your longest field goal?

Yeah, I was used on kick offs and field goals. During practice I had a kick that was about 50 yards with the wind helping me. I don’t recall what my longest was for an actual game in high school. I was basically used for accuracy kicks. If there was a need for a very long field goal, which doesn’t happen so often in high school, there was another kicker on the team that would do that.

Did you play on the football team at Ventura College also?

I did. I was on the soccer team for my first year and then in my second year I decided that I would go talk to the football coach. I told him that I had played in high school and he wasn’t very welcoming. He let me try out and I was asked to be on the team since I was extremely accurate. And, like in high school – I did EVERYTHING with the team. I went through “hell week” and every practice. I never missed a practice. The great thing about that was that it really helped my soccer game. Since I was running around and doing all of this with pads on – once I took them off for soccer I felt so light and could really perform. Each sport basically complemented the other for me.

After college, where did you end up playing?

I continued to play soccer for different teams and leagues but really missed football since I loved it so much. I ended up finding the LCFL team the California Dolphins and the coach told me that I couldn’t try out. I told him that I would go play for someone else and when he had to play that team he would regret not having me on his team. He relented and when I showed him what I could do his whole attitude changed. I was the first woman to play semi-pro on a men’s team as a kicker.

After playing with the Dolphins I was chosen to an All-Star team that played the East vs. West in the league. This was in Las Vegas with 150 guys and I was the West Coast kicker.

From there I had met several coaches that tried to recruit me and I ended up moving to Chicago and playing on a men’s team for a year there. At the time I lived with the coach and his wife and the experience really helped me grow as a person. Here I was just a young lady from Thousand Oaks, California that was now in a completely different neighborhood in Chicago. Fortunately, I was accepted and had a great experience overall.

So what came after Chicago?

I came home and got my cosmetology license and just concentrated on soccer. I also ended up working for a friend’s restaurant for a while since it also gave me the flexibility to play soccer. I really had thought I was done playing football. However, a football team had come in where I was working and the coach recognized me and asked me to come try out for his team. Since I hadn’t kicked a football for a while I didn’t think I would still be able to do it but as it turns out I was better than I expected. I guess you just never lose that! So I ended up playing with them for a while and then played for another team in that league for two years.

How did you decide to try out for the Breakers and start playing with women?

I guess Coach Manny had been watching me play for a few years. He asked me a few times to come play with the women and I never took him up on it. I was so accustomed to playing with the men for so long and was accepted as “one of the guys” that it never occurred to me to play with women. It was really all I knew.

As you know, Coach Manny is a very kind and highly respected individual so I finally relented. As it turns out, I really love it. The team is really like a family and I’ve been having a great time. Now that I am starting to play with the women, I’ve realized that I would like to try other positions besides just kicker. I never had that option playing with the men. I’m very excited to see what this new venture brings.

I'll be sure to get some footage of Joy when the season starts and catch up with her for a follow-up interview. If you are interested in playing football on the Southern California Breakers you can find the information on their website here.


Lindsay said...

Wow, what a great story! Joy is really talented, and she's doing what she loves!

Apryl DeLancey said...

She'll be such a great addition to the team!

Doret said...

That was great thanks

Apryl DeLancey said...

I'm glad you liked it!