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BEA in the NewsFull article by The Centre County Gazette

 

Joannah Skucek, Gigi Agliardo and Charlee Harris are all two-sport athletes and seniors at their respective Centre County high schools. One of the sports each of these young women play is football.

Skucek and Agliardo are linebackers for the State College Area High School junior varsity team, while Harris is Bald Eagle Area’s starting placekicker.

 

SKUCEK AND AGLIARDO

Linebackers are usually seen as some of the hardest-hitting, most feared players on the football field. On State High’s JV football team, the ferocity is no different.

Skucek and Agliardo have been laying crunching tackles and making plays for years in rugby. In fact, they both are on the All-State Rugby Team and have been invited to try out for the High School All-American team. When it was suggested that they take up another sport in the offseason, it only made sense to play football.

“I work really hard, to the point that I have no energy left (during the rugby season),” said Skucek. “I joined football because I wanted to keep my muscle and everything up.”

Skucek joined the team and went to the first practice as the only female. After hearing that Skucek had joined, Agliardo joined, too.

Maintaining fitness wasn’t the only reason the two joined the team.

“I’m a feminist and I think that girls should be able to do anything that guys can do if we actually tried,” said Skucek. “I didn’t like that nobody had joined the football team, and actually showed guys that we can do what they can do and we aren’t just weak individuals.”

Agliardo has a similar view.

“I’m a true feminist at heart, so I think it’s really awesome that we’re able to show people that it’s OK to do whatever you want,” said Agliardo. “Especially the little girls, our coaches’ little daughters, were super excited to have Joannah and I on the team and they look up to us in a way. I think it’s really exciting to be a role model to little girls like that.”

Having both played multiple positions on the rugby pitch, Skucek and Agliardo considered playing multiple positions in football. Quickly, they realized that linebacker was a perfect fit.

“I really wanted to play defense because my strong suit, I would say, is tackling, definitely, and it was one of the main reasons I was going to play the sport,” said Agliardo. “(Linebacker) seemed like the best position for that in a way.”

As these two discovered, not only is memorizing the playbook difficult, transitioning their muscle memories and tactics from the pitch to the gridiron isn’t a perfect match.

“Since rugby passes backwards, it was really hard getting used to defending people,” said Skucek. “(In football) you have to block people, but in rugby nobody blocks you. It took me a while — I still haven’t gotten used to it — to block people, to be blocked and what’s happening to the ball, because I’m so used to going behind it.”

Skucek and Agliardo plan on continuing their rugby careers in college. They dream of becoming Olympic rugby players.

“Rugby has always been my dream. I think it’s a lot of people’s dream (to play in the Olympics),” said Agliardo. “Joannah and I, our coach is in the Olympics right now, and so we’ve always had that dream, knowing it’s possible for us seeing as we’ve been on the All-American team already.”

 

HARRIS

In addition to kicking field goals for the Bald Eagle Area football team, Harris plays goalkeeper for the school’s soccer team.

When the football team was in need of a placekicker, she decided to try out.

“A bunch of the girls on the soccer team encouraged me to do it,” said Harris. “I thought, since it’s my senior year, why not go for it?”

Despite lacking any experience kicking footballs, her head coach, Jesse Nagle, saw that she was the right person for the job.

“After that first kick, I realized her work ethic and her desire to win is just as much as anybody on the field,” said Nagle. “The thing that I picked up is just her willingness to do whatever to make sure she’s successful throughout.”

For the whole season, Harris worked overtime to show her commitment to both teams, going to as many practices as possible and working on her kicking after practices as well.

“It’s stressful,” said Harris. “It can be hard sometimes because there can be a lot of back and forth with both of the teams, but there hasn’t really been much conflict with games and stuff, so that’s nice.”

“We’re really happy to have her part of it because she’s a great girl, she’s excellent as a student, excellent as a role model for young kids,” said Nagle. “From a coaching standpoint, she puts points on the board and you can’t ask for much more than that.”

Harris has is 2-for-3 on field goal attempts, with one that was 27 yards, and is 14-for-21 when it comes to points after touchdowns. Her team plays Juniata in the district playoffs Saturday, Nov. 4.

Harris plans to continue playing soccer in college. This season, she fell in love with football and admits she’d jump at the opportunity if her college’s team needs a kicker.

 

LEARNING EXPERIENCES

All three of the student-athletes have learned a great deal during their season as football players. One of the biggest experiences for all involved was what being on a football team is like.

“I like how intense all the guys are. It’s a completely different team aspect than in soccer,” said Harris. “The whole team is just one big, giant family and they all consider each other to be the other’s brother. They can get so intense on the sidelines and I love that.”

“Getting to know all the guys on the team (was one of my favorite parts of this experience),” said Agliardo. “Getting to know why they play and their full-on interest in the sport. I know that how I feel about rugby is how they feel about this sport.”

Not only did they find a home on their respective teams, but they were treated equally.

“All the guys treat me as just another teammate, and they just treat me like one of the guys,” said Harris. “It’s really nice to not have any special treatment among them.”

All three young women believe that that number of females playing football will continue to rise.

“In today’s society, girls are realizing it’s OK to do the same things as guys and they’re trying to branch out into those different areas,” said Agliardo. “I think there will be a lot more (girls trying out for football) in the future. Slowly, but in time, it will get there.”

“I think because girls like Gigi, (Charlee) and I (joined), it is just helping other girls to get the confidence to join later,” said Skucek. “More girls might join next year just because Gigi and I were on this year and it might spiral.”

Harris believes girls should jump at any opportunity they find interesting.

“I think a lot of girls hesitate when they think about playing football and I don’t think they should. I think they should go for it,” said Harris. “Just because it’s a male-dominated sport doesn’t mean a girl can’t go out there and do just as well as any of the other players.”