Only the long blond ponytail and one pink shoe set Emma Baker apart from her teammates on the football field. The tall, lanky freshman will be the starter this fall and the first female football player on the Rancho Christian football team.
“I love this sport,” said Emma Baker who was encouraged by her father in middle school to try out for the boy’s football team.
Last year the boy’s eighth grade football team at Rancho Christian needed a kicker and Emma, who played club soccer for eight years, wanted to try out.
“We were at the speed and agility training camp in the summer of 2013 when I mentioned to Emma in jest about playing football,” said Jim Baker, Emma’s father.
It took Emma a couple of weeks to mull over the idea to kick football for a boy’s team before telling her father she was game.
“At first I thought the idea was fun but weird playing on a boys team,” Emma said.
The Bakers said the coaches and players were welcoming and supportive of Emma from the start. Despite her being a girl, the coaching staff says they have been impressed with her talent and sees her playing a vital role to the team’s success this season.
“She is incredibly talented and a high level athlete,” said Jimmy Kemmis, assistant head coach for the Rancho Eagles.
Kemmis said the toughest part is over for the team, accepting they would have a female kicker and punter for the next four years.
In eighth grade Emma kicked 37-yards; this year she is already kicking over 40.
“When we get to the 25-yard line and it’s fourth down, we are changing our team’s way of thinking and playing,” said Kemmis. “We can use Emma to kick and score points. She could end up being the team’s high scorer of the year.”
“This has turned out to be a good thing,” said Emma’s mother Erin Baker, adding the experience of her daughter playing football has been wonderful. “It has worked on her self-confidence. I love how the coaches teach about life and being [an] outstanding citizen through the game.”
Kemmis, who also taught Emma in the seventh grade, said he has seen Emma’s confidence level soar both on and off the field.
“I don’t know how a girl wakes up one day and convinces herself she is going to play football with the guys, but it has to take confidence,” said Kemmis.
Kicking is not a passing hobby for the five foot eleven inch powerhouse. Emma plans to take her football career as far as she can.
“I want to play football in college and if I can the NFL,” she said.
The national record for a female high school player kicking a field goal during a game is 47 yards. Since Emma is already kicking over 40 yards, head football coach Jim Kunau said he plans on the Rancho Eagles setting records.
Emma said she has had some naysayers but overall the support from her teammates, the coaching staff and other girls in school has been positive.
“We are having so much with this. This is like a dream come true for me,” said Jim, whose 11-year-old son Jack also plays football.
“I have my daughter on one end of the field practicing and my son on the other end. This is great,” he said.
“Emma can be our school’s highest scorer when she retires from high school,” said Kemmis.