Over the years, the Grantsville High School football program has been an inclusive group and regularly maintains at least one female player on their roster each year. For senior snapper Sophia Calchera, having the opportunity to play has helped her grow as an athlete and student.
As a 9-year-old girl growing up in Sandy, Utah, Calchera found herself in an unexpected situation. One day, while playing video games with a friend, she was asked if she wanted to play football and the rest was history.
“I went home to talk to my mom about it,” Calchera said. “And she was like ‘you gotta be really tough to play football’ and I thought I could do it.”
After she made the decision to play, Calchera’s mother signed her up for football but she faced some backlash.
“It was a little rough at first, because of the (lack of) acceptance,” she said.
Despite wanting to play on her younger friend’s team, Calchera was assigned to play with the other 9-year-olds and immediately faced skepticism during a team practice.
“I went to my age group and the head coach said ‘A girl? A [expletive] girl?’ then halfway through practice my team came and got me,” Calchera said. “So I practiced with them.”
Calchera went on to play football every year since, save for 8th grade when she moved to Grantsville. Once she reached high school, she was pleasantly surprised to see the team welcome her with open arms.
“The boys were really accepting and the coaches made an effort to help me,” Calchera said. “Coach Byrd has helped me with everything on and off the field.”
In addition to her older sister Isabella, Calchera has played alongside other girls on her team and relishes the opportunity to teach and grow with them on a team that is historically dominated by boys and men.
“It is really nice having other girls there and supporting each other,” she said.
Ultimately, it is these bonds that Calchera cherishes the most and the close-knit relationships she has with all of her teammates.
“A lot of the guys on the team are friends and I can always go to them if I need any help, or they can come to me,” she said. “For a lot of them, I help with girl problems.”
Once she graduates, Calchera said she has considered going to school to become a psychiatrist or even enlisting in the Navy. It is this ambition that has given her the drive to succeed not only on the field, but in the classroom as well.
And she understands that the road wasn’t easy, but would tell other girls considering football to not give up.
“Work hard, keep going at it,” Calchera said. “It’s going to be hard, but you just have to push through it.”