Rasiwala (8) makes history as first female football player on MD team


Clara Medeiros and Blake Bennett

The Middle Division football team welcomed its first female player this season: Arshia Rasiwala (8).

“When I saw that they (the school) had football as an option for boys and girls I was really excited to finally get a chance to play a sport I never had the opportunity to,” Rasiwala said.

Rasiwala’s interest in football began in sixth grade. She enjoyed watching it on TV, so when she saw the school offered football, she took that opportunity to try the sport, she said. She initially thought it would be a co-ed team, but when tryouts began, she was surprised she was the only girl there.

Rasiwala wasn’t the first one to try out for the team, though she is the first to play on it, Head Coach of JV and MD football Ron Beller said. “She showed a lot of courage,” he said. “Arshia was able to not only get on the team, she was able to start many games. She was able to have a significant role on the team, and that’s a testament to her hard work, her determination, her resolve and really just her being a good football player.”

To get on the team, girls must pass a fitness test so the school can see that they are physically able to play among the boys, Rasiwala said. The coaches tested her how fast she could run a mile, how many push-ups she could do, and how flexible she was. “While I was excited to measure my fitness ability through the tests, I feel like all students should be tested too.”

Looking back at her experiences with her teammates, she noticed the different treatment she received. “It was hard to build a connection with the rest of the team,” Rasiwala said. “I felt like that there was always a barrier because I was a girl, and I also felt like they wouldn’t defend as hard with me.”

Although Rasiwala felt disconnected from her teammates, she enjoyed learning from her coaches, who gave her advice whenever she was doing something wrong. “The team always tried to be inclusive and they gave me many opportunities to play. They were honestly really nice and I learned a lot from them,” she said.

Beller enjoyed having the opportunity to coach Rasiwala and send a message to doubters about female participation in predominantly men’s sports, he said. He sees Rasiwala as a great example of how necessary inclusion in sports is. “The beauty of sports is, it doesn’t matter what gender, creed, religion or what gender you are. All that matters is if you can help the team.”

Rasiwala doesn’t know whether she will want to continue playing football next year, she said. However, she encourages all girls who wish to break through the gender barrier to try out for predominantly male sport teams. She advises other girls who want to play on an all boys team to stay determined and focus on their passion for the sport. “You shouldn’t care what they think,” Raiswala said. “You need to have very thick skin because they could talk about you behind your back, so you just need to be very mentally prepared for that.”