SYCAMORE – Josh Pincombe knew he was in a losing battle.
“I knew I would eventually have to let her play football,” the Sycamore man said. His 10-year-old daughter, Gracie, is playing in the Kishwaukee Youth Football League for the first time this year. “Every year she begged me. ...It turns out she’s a good player.”
Gracie Pincombe said football has been her favorite sport since she was in the second grade.
“He didn’t want me to play because he was afraid I’d get hurt,” she said. “But Mom said I can do anything I want to do. She played football with her brothers, but never in a game.”
Gracie’s mom, Kim Pincombe, is one of the founding members of the Barbed Wire Betties roller derby team. She said she tried to push Gracie toward cheerleading, but her daughter wanted to play football.
“We talked about it and we didn’t want her to grow up and say her parents wouldn’t let her play,” Kim Pincombe said. “She’s a tomboy who plays sports with the boys in the neighborhood.”
Josh Pincombe said Gracie never backs down from a challenge. If someone tells her she can’t do something, she’ll do it 10 times better than anyone thought possible – and discreetly make sure everyone knows it.
There was one catch, though. “I told her if she signed up, she had to stick with it,” Kim Pincombe said. “If she didn’t like it after one year, then she didn’t have to do it again.”
The KYFL is for kids in fifth and sixth grades. A number of girls have played over the years, league founder Murph Johnson said. In the league’s 18-year history, he said he couldn’t recall a year when no girls played. The most he could remember in one season was four.
At this age, Johnson said, girls can usually keep up with boys, especially if they have older brothers. Coaches, though, are usually a little more guarded with a girl player.
Johnson said there are about 70 players in the league. Players are divided into four teams based on factors such as age and weight. Each team plays seven games a season.
Although it’s fairly common to see a girl kicker on a football team, Gracie, a fifth grader at South Prairie School, says she can’t kick and hopes to play wide receiver. Originally known as “Fumblelina” by her friends, Gracie credited her father with showing her how to catch a football.
“I’m pretty fast, even if I say so myself,” she said. “I like to run and roughhouse.”
Even though she plays other sports, like basketball and BMX racing, they don’t compare to football.
“She was MVP of her softball team and she hated it,” Josh Pincombe said.
“It bored me,” she said. “I like sports where you can go at each other.”
Although her mother admitted she gets a little nervous about tackling, Gracie said she’s not concerned.
“If I get hurt, I get hurt,” she said.