TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – When you are a teenager, the thought of being different can be terrifying. Your friends, your classmates, and your peers may not be able to relate to you.
Now, I want you to consider being a teenager and choosing to be different.
Would you have the courage to do it?
Reece Lane possesses that power. She is the only female on the junior varsity football team at Plant High School in Tampa.
“I was like, ‘I have to make myself stand out somehow in high school,’” explained Reece, a 16-year-old sophomore, “so I thought that that was the perfect opportunity.”
Her “perfect opportunity” started to take shape in December. Lane, who was a freshman on the flag football team at the time, stood on a football field with her father, Craig, tossing the ball back and forth.
“He was like, ‘Can you try to kick it?’ because when he was in high school, a lot of the kickers on the football team came from soccer and I also play soccer,” said Lane, “so I kicked it.”
Lane admitted she surprised herself.
“I did not think I was going to be able to do it because I thought soccer would be such a different thing than football, you know, the shapes and stuff,” she said. “I thought it would completely throw me off and I would completely bomb it and hit it backward.”
When she kicked it, she sent the ball sailing straight through the uprights. Her father could not contain his excitement.
“He was like, ‘You could actually do this, be on the team,’” she said, “so that is how it came to be.”
Lane did not know what to expect when she stepped onto the field for the first day of tryouts but she knew she was prepared. She had practiced kicking until she felt confident.
“I was like, ‘I can do this,’” she recalled.
However, she still felt like a stranger to the sport.
“It was very scary because I have seen football games and stuff but it is a completely different experience when you are actually on the field with other people so I was completely terrified,” she said. “It was not what I expected at all. You do not really see what goes on behind the scenes at the practices and the tryouts so it was definitely something different that I have never done before but I found my way in after a couple of minutes and I went from there.”
You may have assumed Lane received an email from the coach, which she would have opened in the privacy of her home, welcoming her to the team. If you did envision it unfolding in that manner, you would be mistaken.
The names of the players on the team appeared on a sheet of paper publicly displayed at a football meeting. Lane attended that meeting with her dad.
“We went but I was not expecting to be on the team,” she said, “because there was already another kicker. I was like, ‘Psh, I am not going to make it,’ and then, my name was on the list.”
How did she react to seeing her name on that piece of paper?
“I was really excited,” she said, “because I was like, ‘If I am good enough to be on the team, then that means it can go further.’”
While it would have been understandable for Lane to be an outsider and to accept her role as an outsider, she said she feels like an equal on this team.
“After a couple of days, it really became natural and I started making friends and now, I feel more like one of them,” she said. “It took time and it definitely was scary but now, I am really glad because I am fitting in more.”
The head coach of the team, John Shepherd, told me the entire experience has been “fantastic” for everyone involved in it.
“I am excited that she decided to come out and play,” said Shepherd. “She comes out here and she is just another player, another teammate. I love having her here.”
Unfortunately, as the second-string kicker, Lane has only had one chance to kick in a game and is still waiting to put her first points on the scoreboard.
Lane, in an effort to elevate herself, chose to be different, and consequently, she said she has been questioned because of it.
“There were definitely a lot of people who thought that I was crazy for what I was doing and I thought I was crazy for what I was doing,” she added matter-of-factly, “but a lot of people were like, you know, ‘Why are you doing that? It is kind of weird.’”
Those comments did not bother her because she flipped them into a form of motivation.
“When people said those types of things to me, the way that I kind of put that off was I was like, ‘No. What they are saying is completely wrong. That is not true. I will definitely make my mark and do well because I want to do well in what I do,’ so kind of the way that I thought about it is to keep my head up, to do well at what you are going to do, and to prove them wrong,” she said. “I was telling myself to be great at what you are doing and then, that will make other people, who doubted you, see that it is possible.”
By bypassing the critics by performing to the best of her ability, Lane is now a role model.
I actually caught her chatting with one of the coaches’ daughters, Lydia, during practice. Lydia told me she initially spotted Lane on the field because she wears blue cleats.
“She is the only girl who plays football,” stated Lydia. “I think it is super good.”
“That is really cool,” said Lane when I shared this story with her while referring to her as a role model. “I would never think that that is possible but trying something new opened up a lot of things. It definitely made me feel more comfortable to try new things and I definitely want other people to feel the same way that trying new things can actually turn out to be really good.”
Lane plans to play football for the Plant Panthers through high school, citing her improvement and her enjoyment as the two main reasons.
“It is really fun and I love the environment and all of the people I am around constantly,” she said, “and I think that whatever I put my mind to, I can do; so I got to keep practicing and see how far I get and see where I want to go.”