Not just one of the guys

Published 6:00 am Saturday, October 18, 2008

A 6-year-old involved in youth football? So what, one might ask.

A girl? OK, so she was a cheerleader. Yes, but Stella Bice played, too.

Bice this fall participated in the area’s first flag football league, which was hosted by Victory Baptist Church in Jemison. Because the Upward brand of football is non-contact, Bice and several other girls in K4 through the 6th grade were able to play right along with the boys.

“The girls loved it,” league coordinator Marc Hodges said. The girls loved it so much that they sometimes had trouble controlling their excitement. Hodges recalled a moment in one game where it became obvious one of the female players was about to be handed the football. “You could tell by the look on her face,” Hodges said.

Stella’s mom, Alexandria Bice, said there were no reservations about letting her daughter play football with a bunch of boys. If Stella had any doubts, they didn’t last long.

“I was kind of nervous at first, but then I got to playing and I wasn’t nervous anymore,” she said. Not nervous might not be the best description of Stella’s style of play.

“Stella was a little spitfire,” Hodges said. “She was about as fast as any boy in her league.”

Though Stella enjoys a number of sports and other activites, she doesn’t hesitate when asked which one is her favorite (you can probably guess).

Perhaps most importantly, one of the reasons Stella gave for her enjoyment of flag football was that she got to meet a lot of friends. No doubt that’s possible in a number of youth athletic situations, but it is especially so in Upward, where fellowship and inclusion is stressed over competitiveness.

Along with Victory, area churches First United Methodist of Clanton, Union Springs and Liberty Hill offer some kind of Upward youth sports leagues (and more information is available at The trend toward Upward’s positive approach to youth athletics will continue.

Eighty-one players participated in the flag football league, and several of those were female.

Hodges said he would like to double the number of girls next year, and the goal is to eventually feature an all-girls league, such as Upward has in other sports. That would be a good thing – for the boys.