“I feel like in this team, they just accept you. It doesn’t matter what gender you are; they don’t treat you any differently. It’s like we’re all just one team.”
Brianna Mendez is one of two female players on the Pritzker College Prep football team. This fall was her first season, where she mainly played as an offensive guard.
Her fellow teammate, Jenille Morales, also played as a guard. Jenille first joined the team three years ago, trailblazing the way for Brianna and any other girl who might want to play on the Pritzker team.
In the 2018-19 school year, only about 0.2% of high school football players in the U.S. identified as female. (Statista, marketing and consumer research company)
At Noble Schools this year, there were a total of four female players on football squads – Brianna and Jenille at Pritzker and Shannasia Cleaves and Le’Andria Hill at Johnson College Prep.
This year was also the start of the girls’ flag football teams at Gary Comer College Prep, Mansueto High School, and Chicago Bulls College Prep. Both the Bulls Prep and Comer teams made it to the quarterfinals in this year’s playoffs.
Jenille says her gender doesn’t stop her from succeeding at football team.
“I’m like a 5’5” female on the line — there’s people that are 6 foot, ya know? And I feel like that just says a lot about football and things that you can accomplish,” Jenille said.
Both Jenille and Brianna talked about how their teammates and coaches make them feel accepted, regardless of their gender.
“They’re really respectful when it comes to me being a female… I don’t feel any different from them. I feel like my own person. I feel like I matter here and I’m supposed to be here,” Jenille said.
“When I first got to be a guard, everyone was cheering on for the first time I went in the field… Everyone’s just cheering you on and no one is judging you,” Brianna said.
Hear more about their experience playing on the team and what their coach and teammates say about their time together in the video above.