Auburn fields coed soccer team
RINER — High schools around the commonwealth of Virginia are finishing up another season of spring sports, and there are a few schools among the Virginia High School League that stand out.
One of those schools is right here in the New River Valley.
Auburn High School fields a boys’ soccer team with both male and female student-athlete members.
At 7-7, this coed soccer team is different.
For several years, Auburn has had a coed varsity soccer team, and it doesn’t look like that’s changing anytime soon.
There are four female student-athletes on the team.
If that’s not unique enough, Auburn’s head coach is also a woman. Auburn even has a brother-sister duo on its roster. Junior Gabriela Romo and her brother, freshman Carlos Romo, stand alongside 16 other Eagles.
Head coach Jacquelyn McCarthy said her team is united but has faced expected challenges because of their coed roster.
“We cannot meet in one locker room to get ready and motivated, but we have found ways to make our own traditions and ways to meet for motivation,” McCarthy said.
Auburn isn’t the only team facing those challenges.
According to VHSL Co-Director of Athletics Joyce Sisson, Auburn was one of just 24 schools in the commonwealth of Virginia to have boys’ soccer teams with female student-athletes on the roster last season.
Most of the schools on that list were Group A schools, Sisson added.
VHSL’s participation survey indicated there are 312 public schools in the commonwealth. Sisson said female participation on male teams could also be seen in sports such as football, wrestling, golf and basketball.
But that doesn’t keep the female athletes at Auburn from competing.
Senior Anne Peters has played on the Auburn boys’ soccer team for four years now, and said playing on the boys’ team has helped her grow up.
“I used to have stage fright before I played on the boys’ team,” Peters said. “Through the years, I’ve learned to grow up, and this has helped me grow as a person.”
Even though Peters said playing on the boys’ team has helped her, she acknowledges that it has been a challenge in the past.
“I’m really competitive, but as a girl I kind of struggled to be respected as a player on the team at first,” Peters said. “But, over the years I’ve played with the same guys, and they now see me as just another competitive player.”
At first, opposing teams didn’t seem to take her and her female teammates seriously, Peters added.
But that changed quickly.
“I’ve seen a change in other teams’ attitudes,” Peters said. “They don’t look at us as just girls anymore.”
According to the VHSL survey, Narrows High School in Giles County also fields a boys’ soccer team with female student-athletes. Auburn beat Narrows 2-1 last season.
“I can really relate to them because they play with guys, too, but I don’t go any easier on them,” Peters said. “If anything, I’m tougher on them.”
Peters and teammate Jessalyn Monday, a sophomore, agree that playing tough, physical soccer has enabled them to earn the respect of opposing teams.
“Some of the guys think we’re going to be easy competition they can just run over, but our own guys encourage us to play like we always do,” Monday said.
Although frustrated by opposing teams’ attitudes, Monday said it gives her fuel to play harder.
“Not a lot of girls can play on a guys’ team,” Monday said. “It’s a higher level of competition with the guys, and I like that level of competition.”
Monday said playing on the boys’ team has opened her eyes to a lot of things when it comes to male student-athletes.
“Some of the guys I see now, I would’ve thought of them totally different,” Monday said. “The way they treat me and some of the other girls, I think they’re great people.”
Monday said her teammates tend to be protective of the girls.
But junior Marshall Jones said the girls can handle themselves.
“We’re guys, they’re girls,” Jones said. “We just practice, play and go on with it.”
Jones said playing on the team has helped him realize the importance of each player bringing a different element to the team, and it has enabled him to have deeper relationships with his friends.
Junior Davis Burcham thinks the girls bring an important element to the team — diversity.
“There are a lot of personalities,” Burcham said.
McCarthy said coaching a coed team has been a wonderful experience for her because of the diversity.
“I have enjoyed getting to learn about the ways that both girls and guys work as teammates,” McCarthy said. “All of the players bring a unique aspect to our team, to the way our team has bonded, and I enjoy watching them as they develop respect for each other regardless of differences.”
McCarthy knows her team has a lot of growing to do, but she can already look back and see how far they have already come.
“It has been a learning experience and has allowed me to search for ways to encourage our players to accept each other, work to encourage each other and to grow to be the best players they can be,” she said.
The Roanoke Times | 381-8627
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