Standing at just 5’3” Grade 12 student Nicole Gauvin doesn’t fit the stereotype of a high school football player.
But Gauvin squashed the stereotype and proudly represented the Bellerose Composite Bulldogs at Emerald Hills Park in Sherwood Park on Friday.
Seeing a girl play on a high school boys' football team is something head coach Jason Lafferty never thought twice about. Girls have been involved in the school’s football program before and Lafferty said he wants to make sure every student has a chance to show what they’ve got on the field.
“We’ve had girls in our program in the past who have played on our junior team, so it's not out to lunch to have girls interested in tackle [football]”, said Lafferty. “It’s not unusual, it’s just about finding the opportunities where [girls] can get involved in the game.”
Lafferty is impressed with Gauvin’s commitment. He said the ball got rolling after Gauvin approached him with an interest in becoming the team’s kicker.
“Nicole is a really good athlete and she sent me some film asking if she could kick for [the Bulldogs] ... I looked at the film and there were obviously some things to work on in terms of her timing,” said Lafferty. “She’s got a strong leg and more importantly she’s a great kid and I’m happy she’s around our football program.
“Kicking can be a kind of lonely job, so she’s worked on her own and with the team and she’s done a really good job of staying engaged with it.”
Gauvin was a soccer player first. She has played since she was five. She recently became interested in football after a friend of hers pointed out her kicking ability as a potential benefit for the football team.
“It was one of my best friends who told [coach Lafferty] that I was really good at soccer and that I would be a really good kicker,” said Gauvin. “My friend convinced me, and my dad is a big football fan, so I decided to talk to Lafferty about kicking in practice and I guess I got good enough to play in a game,” said Gauvin.
In her first game as a Bulldog, Gauvin had three opportunities to kick a field goal and was able to score all three. The team had her back, and Gauvin said it was an experience right out of her dreams.
“Everyone was cheering for me on the sidelines and when I got my first field goal the guys lifted me up on the field,” said Gauvin. “It was exhilarating, it was crazy, I have never felt that much adrenaline in my life and I’ve played soccer my whole life.”
“It was just ... I don’t know ... it was like a dream and it was so fun!”
Gauvin is currently unsure about whether she’ll pursue football over soccer, but her focus right now is to stay in the moment and enjoy the fun while it lasts.
“I definitely want to go somewhere in soccer, but it would be cool if I could work football into that as well,” said Gauvin.
Her next opportunity to kick for the Bulldogs is this Friday, Oct. 1 as they host the Harry Ainley Titans at Larry Olexiuk Field.