Senior Leah West does it all. She is academically driven, musically talented and most recently she has proven that she is athletically gifted in a variety of sports.
Senior Leah West does it all. She is academically driven, musically talented and most recently she has proven that she is athletically gifted in a variety of sports. In addition to excelling in soccer, Leah has secured a position on Dana’s football team, kicker, and has gone down in history as the first girl to score a point on the team.
Her journey started in junior year at the Homecoming game in October. She remembers “sitting in the stands with [her] friends and feeling the excitement all around [them]—the roar of the crowd, the bands, the shining lights. When [she] looked down at the players, [she] felt like [she] should be on the field and was very compelled to do that.” Though she played flag football in middle school and was pretty good at it, “[she] never thought much of it because it just never really occurred to [her] that she could actually do it as a sport.”
Of course, this lack of prior experience did not deter her. In preparation for the season, she practiced with the team from 3 p.m. to around 7 p.m. every weekday, focusing on kicking and punting but also often weightlifting and conditioning to build strength. However, because West was practicing so much, and because kicking is such a repetitive motion, she “strained [her] quad and was out for about three months. [She] also hurt [her] hamstring right before game week. Overcoming these injuries, focusing on getting healed, and working on physical therapy was a barrier as [she] had to not only overcome a physical obstacle, but also a mental [obstacle] when [she returned] to the game, [reaffirming] that [she] would be [successful] despite [her] injuries.”
As a girl on a team dominated with boys, West initially faced some other challenges. She at first “felt on the outsides because people [seemed] afraid to talk to [her], but after a while that barrier [went] away as [she] now feels comfortable talking to her teammates and feels very included.”
Against Woodbridge on Friday, March 26, West became the first girl to secure a point for her team, a moment her coach described as “[seeing] the glass ceiling break.” At first, she was “pretty nervous, but when [she] was going up to kick, [she] became laser-focused—it was muscle memory taking over. Right when [she] looked up at her kick and [saw] that it made it through, it was pretty much disbelief and excitement. It was an amazing feeling overall.” The support she has received gives her “hope for other girls” who wish to join the team. She is honored to fall into that legacy of being a woman on the football team, much like “J.J., the first female on the team,” and slowly but steadily making progress towards a better future.
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