Team welcomes female football player to JV squad

September 5, 2017 — by Alex Wang and Elicia Ye

After her experiences in cheerleading for Pop Warner during her elementary school years, a youth football and cheer and dance program, freshman Nora Sherman decided to cross the sidelines four years later and put on pads and a helmet.

Sherman was inspired to follow in the footsteps of both her grandfather, who played the sport for the Oregon Ducks, and her brother sophomore Jack Sherman, an offensive lineman on the varsity team. She is playing football for the first time this year as a member of the JV team.

“My brother played last year and had a lot of positive experiences, so he was the one who got me interested in playing competitive football for the first time,” Nora said. “It’s great for us to finally be on the same team together.”

While Jack played football for two years in Pop Warner, Nora cheered on the sideline as a flyer for a year. However, Nora had a terrifying experience when her stunt group threw her in the air and didn’t manage to catch her, leaving her to fall to the rubber track. To make matters worse, she was reprimanded for being late to do the next cheer. The experience left her feeling unhappy about cheerleading in general.

Not only is Nora on the JV team, but she has earned a starting role as the team’s center — the player who snaps the ball to the quarterback and then blocks opposing linemen.

With her tall stature and muscular physique, Nora feels no different being on the team as a female player. Despite not having gone through extensive football training in the past, Nora said she didn’t find tryouts and practices too demanding and was able to adapt well to being on the team.

“During games, I do my best to focus on the play we’re doing because there’s always a lot going on,” Nora said. “I just need to make sure I do my job well so everyone else can do theirs.”

Knowing that Nora was Jack’s sister, players said they were excited to meet her at the football team meeting in the beginning of the year, and they have welcomed her ever since.

“We don’t treat her any differently because she’s part of the team and our whole team is family,” sophomore George Bian said. “We don’t look down on her just because she’s a girl. She’s strong and independent and able to start on the offense.”

Bian said Nora fits into the role perfectly at offensive line, a position the team where the team lacks depth.

According to her coaches, the team dynamic hasn’t changed with the addition of Nora to the program. With the hard-work and determination she brings to the team, Nora just wants to be treated like the rest of the players.

“We love the mentality and energy she brings every day to the field, and we enjoy watching her grow as one of our center pieces on this team, ” JV Head Coach Stephen Matos said. “But I tell all my players, once you're on this team you are a Falcon and that's it.”

After two games and a scrimmage, Nora has grown accustomed to games and opponents’ reactions. During the scrimmage against San Mateo last month, she took off her helmet and let her hair out of the braids. Players on the opposing team were initially surprised but remained respectful throughout the game.

“I don’t usually like getting attention, but most of it has been positive,” Nora said. “I haven’t gotten any negative attention, which I really appreciate because I know people get backlash when they do things ‘differently.’”

The coaches hope that with what Nora has overcome, she can open her eyes to football or any sport and prove that she can do anything no matter what.

“She is a huge motivation for me to work harder just watching her overcome the odds. Nora is the definition of Red Pride, and we are so grateful to have her at Saratoga as well as having her as a great teammate,” Matos said.

Nora hopes her example will encourage others to to achieve their aspirations.

“Do whatever you wanna do, whether other people think it’s something you should or shouldn’t do,” Nora said. “You should go ahead and have fun, work hard and succeed.”