For a long time, football has been a male-dominated sport, but that didn’t deter 13-year-old Elizabeth Serra from following her dream of being a kicker. Now, the Woodland Middle School eighth-grader has finished her first season as a kicker and a wide receiver for the Woodland Jets, showing her skill on the field.
Elizabeth’s love for the game was sparked in third grade, after her teacher taught the class about the Super Bowl. That year’s game was between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.
“I became a really big Eagles fan when they won the Super Bowl,” Elizabeth said. “Since then I’ve really loved football and I really wanted to try to be a kicker and even another position too.”
Having played soccer for 10 years on school and travel teams, Elizabeth was no stranger to being on the field and being part of a team, so the acclimation to football wasn’t hard for her. She barely blinked an eye at being the only girl on the team.
“I was a little bit nervous,” she admitted. “But then I realized what I really wanted to do, and I just really wanted to play football, so it didn’t really bother me that much.”
Elizabeth’s mom, Denise, said that her daughter dragged her out to the East Meadow High School football field everyday over the summer to practice for tryouts this past fall. Initially, she was nervous to have her daughter play football.
“I was a little nervous but she explained the game to me because I don’t really watch sports,” Denise joked. “She explained to me how, when a kicker goes and kicks, they can’t be touched by the opposing team, because it could be a penalty on that team, so she’s like, ‘mommy, it’s really safe, don’t worry, I’m completely padded, and protected.’ So I said OK.
“I support her in everything she does and she’s just a great kid all around. She’s such a hard-working girl. When she has her mind set on something, she will go after it. She’s very perseverant and very determined.”
In order to play on the team, Elizabeth had to pass a rigorous physical fitness test and get medically cleared in order to prove she can play on a boy’s team, and she passed with flying colors.
“I love the game, and the competition,” Elizabeth said. “And I really love how the team is like family.”
Having a kicker on a middle school team is pretty rare, and at this level, point after touchdowns are worth two points rather than the traditional one point.
Elizabeth scored 16 points this season for the Woodland Jets, and even helped the team win their final game against the Seaford Vikings. The game was tied, and if the Jets didn’t have a kicker, they would’ve lost.
“Lizzy was an asset to the team,” Michael Simone, Elizabeth’s coach said. “I’m glad she tried out, and I’m glad she came on board.”
Simone said that at first he was surprised when he saw a girl’s name on his roster this fall, and that he double checked with the athletic director just to make sure it was correct. He was excited to have her as a kicker.
When it came to her being a wide receiver though, Simone said it was all her idea. “Her work ethic is incredible. She would run every sprint, she would do every conditioning drill, so I think everyone on the field, recognized her motivation, her dedication,” he said. “During games, if I had an opportunity to put her in as wide receiver, depending on who we were playing and their personnel that was on the field, it was a no brainer to get her out there.
“She earned the right to play that position, just as much as any other football player that I was coaching.”
Elizabeth’s parents said that Simone and everyone on the team treated her with the utmost respect. And whenever they went to games, Simone said that no one ever blinked an eye over the Jets having a female player.
“We always get some sort of surprise to it, it’s a little bit out of the norm,” Elizabeth’s dad Henry said of the reactions he gets when he says his daughter plays football. “But she’s definitely lived up to her potential with being a kicker.”
Elizabeth said that she wants to continue playing in high school, but when it comes to college and the pros, she has her mind set on the University of Pennsylvania or Massachusetts Institute of Technology for computer engineering.
“I’m never going to doubt Lizzy, just because I’ve seen her work ethic,” Simone said. “She is someone I don’t think I would ever bet against.”