Sandy sisters do the kicking for Jordan High
Dec 01, 2017 08:00AM
● By Ron Bevan
Emily Bluemel sends a kick toward the uprights for Jordan's football team. A senior this year, she is one of four sisters who has kicked for the Beetdiggers. (Photo by Corey Bluemel)
Friday night lights. A rite of passage for families with teenagers. You gather weekly at the local high school football field to watch your children play football, just like your parents did when you were young.
Corey and Cindy Bluemel of Sandy have been doing it now for a few years, beginning with watching their first child play for Jordan High School. This season the Bluemels did triple duty, watching their middle three children play in the varsity, junior varsity and sophomore games.
But it wasn’t a rite of passage for the Bluemels. Although athletic himself, Corey never played football in high school, and he certainly didn’t expect his children would either.
“We were a soccer family,” Corey said. “I play soccer and they all played soccer. I didn’t expect to ever be at a high school football game, let alone three each week.”
It’s understandable that the family would be a bit bewildered on this change of lifestyle. Not because dad didn’t play football, but because they named their children Ashley, Emily, Kylee and Hannah. And yes, they are all girls.
While it hasn’t been completely unusual to see females playing on boys football teams across the country, usually as kickers, this may be the only family to have each successive girl give it a try.
The Bluemels have been field goal kickers for the Beetdiggers ever since Ashley, now 19, suited up a few years back as a sophomore. An avid soccer player who never gave much thought to football, Ashley was just kicking a soccer ball around one day when a fellow student told her she should kick field goals.
“Ashley was always breaking barriers,” Emily said. “Her friend was joking around with her, kinda teasing her. But she decided to try it and made the team.”
Ashley was already a mainstay on the Jordan girls soccer team as a defender. Both the football coach and the soccer coach worked with each other to allow her to continue in both sports, as they are played at the same time of the season. She would go to kicking practice early, then hustle over to soccer practices.
“Her biggest worry was that we wouldn’t want her to play football,” Corey said. “But my wife likes to push our comfort zone and get us to try new things. We were behind her from the start.”
But it did come as a surprise to Corey. Having no boys, he hadn’t prepared to become a football dad.
“I realized I hadn’t taught them any of the rules in football because I never thought I would need to,” Corey said.
Ashley’s first time to enter a game for Jordan came on a bigger stage than normal. The Beetdiggers were playing a nationally ranked team from New Jersey at Rio Tinto Stadium. As she lined up to kick, the snap wasn’t the best.
“She had these huge linemen rushing in at her and blocked the kick,” Corey said. “She got hit a bit and I had to tell her that was part of the rules.”
But a little tussle from bigger boys didn’t deter her and she continued kicking.
Ashley did double duty for the Beetdiggers as a sophomore and a junior. But she gave it up for her senior year and concentrated solely on soccer. It was the right decision for her, helping her to land a scholarship in soccer at Missouri Southern State University.
Enter Emily. When Ashley stepped down, Emily decided she wanted to kick as well. But she came into the sport with a bit of trepidation. She had been playing soccer and was used to being around girls on a team.
“This was a big step for me,” Emily said. “Ashley taught me how to fit in. She taught me how to kick a football instead of a soccer ball. And she taught me what to expect from the boys.”
Emily also played both soccer and football her sophomore year. But a change in coaching changed all that.
“My junior year I was forced to choose one sport or the other by my soccer coach,” Emily said.
Although she had played soccer her whole life, she had fallen in love with football and quickly made her choice. She not only devoted her high school years to the sport, but also her off time, practicing kicks and watching other kickers.
“I would turn on an NFL game and watch only what the kickers were doing,” she said.
Her decision to focus on football also changed her high school experience.
“My junior year was when I really bonded with the boys on the team,” Emily said. “They got to see a different side of me and I saw a different side of them. Now I have 80 brothers who walk the school halls with me and protect me just like a big brother would do. I can call and ask any of them for advice.”
Emily has become deadly with kicks from 35 yards inward. She has only missed one extra point kick her entire career.
But there can be some downsides to being a female in a male-dominated sport. Where does she suit up? After all, she can’t use the boys locker room. And the girls locker room is taken by the visiting team.
“At first, sometimes I would have to change in storage rooms, or even bathrooms,” Emily said. “Once at Viewmont I was changing in the girls bathroom and the Viewmont cheerleaders came in and said I couldn’t be in there. They hassled me about it pretty good. That’s when my coach decided to change things.”
After that incident Jordan’s coach made a rule and set aside a part of the boys locker room just for Emily.
“The boys knew that was my area and they weren’t allowed near it,” she said.
Another issue is the college side of things. While Ashley chose soccer to continue in college, Emily, who has kicked her last football in high school, wants to continue playing football.
“College coaches would see me kick and ask my coach about me,” Emily said. “But when they find out I am a girl, they quit inquiring. It is tough to see kickers that are being chosen for colleges and know that I am better than them. They should just look at my stats. Why does gender have to be part of it?”
Emily is still trying to get on a college roster, and may even try to walk on wherever she ends up. But whether she continues to kick or not, the Bluemels are not done with the sport.
Kylee, 15, was the one who thought she wouldn’t play football. But there she is, kicking this year on the junior varsity team and next year for the varsity.
And then there’s Hannah. At just 14 years of age, she not only kicked for the sophomore team but played defensive cornerback, as well.
“The first time I got hit by a player while in the defense he came back to help me up,” Hannah said. “That’s when he first realized I was a girl and the shock on his face was priceless.”
As Corey reflects back on the what has become of his family of all girls, he is proud of their decisions to play football and the lessons they have learned.
“I look at the challenges they will face in our world, and I believe they have an edge over others,” Corey said. “They can look back at their high school years and realize they have already competed in a male-dominated environment.”