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Kalli Koletzky’s favorite sport is football. She started showing interest in the game around age five, tagging along with her dad, Dusty, when he coached her brother Kobe’s flag football team. Little Kalli watched practices and begged to substitute in to play whenever Dad needed it.

Her interest in the game gave Dusty an idea and he started asking other parents about an all-girls flag football team. With an overwhelming interest in it, Dusty and wife Sherri developed an all girls team last fall and had a fantastic year.

“I saw how excited she got when we were at practice,” he recalls. “I think girls don’t really consider that they can play. They look at it like,‘that looks like fun, but I can’t play it (because) I’m a girl.’ When I gave her the chance to come in and help out and saw how excited she got and she did really well.”

The team started off with fourteen first and second grade girls.

Eight-year old Kalli was finally going to play the game that she’s been watching from the sidelines. Gathering up girls from Yankton and surrounding areas such as Gayville, SD and Crofton, NE, the team involved any girls that wanted to play. Jake Westrum and Cole Larson helped coach as they also had daughters on the team.

Breaking The News

During their first practice at Sertoma park, Dusty noticed another team practicing on the field and saw an opportunity to see what the girls could do. He talked to a coach from the other team who agreed to have a scrimmage.

He laughs as he explains how he broke the news to the girls during a water break. He told them that they would scrimmage the other team after a short practice. Their reaction was priceless.

“But, THEY’RE BOYS!” Dusty reacted, “Yeah girls! We have to play the boys. You’re in a boys’ league!”

He had given clues during their practices, telling the girls to pretend they were pushing their brother around or pretend they’re up against a smelly boy.

“Ew!” Kalli, listening to our conversation, pipes in with her thoughts, perfectly timed after the “smelly boy” comment. I can’t help but laugh! Dusty didn’t specifically tell them that they were in a boys’ league so they must not have realized it. The girls didn’t have time to analyze it, they had to get on the field and play. And play they did.

The girls played extremely well during the scrimmage and came away soaring with confidence.

Game Time

I ask Kalli about her first game, if she was nervous. “Yes,” she replies.

I ask if she had fun. “Yes,” she replies again with a big smile.

“It was super exciting,” Dusty beams. “All of us coaches were super excited about it. It was impressive when you see them out there and just to see them, to know that they can compete with the boys, was gratifying to know that we coached these girls.”

Dusty explains some of his strategies when working with the young girls. He explains that remembering the plays is probably the hardest aspect of football for this age group so he tries to keep it limited to six plays. To aid in remembering them, he gives the play a name that stands out for the girls, for instance one uses the “Hello Kitty” character in its name.

He tries to rotate the girls for every position, explaining his goal, “Every game, every girl was supposed to get a chance to run the ball.”

We laugh as he told about random moments while in the huddle, like any kids that age, when they might lose focus of what’s at hand.

“I’d be like, ‘girls, just listen, just stop and listen,’ and a girl would start talking to another girl in the huddle and would say ‘Oh, I like your hair.’”

Coaching Tactics

Dusty has coached football for several years and said that coaching the girls was just like coaching the boys, though he thought the girls might listen and follow directions a little better than boys of that age group.

“After we got going, it was just like all the boys’ teams that I’ve coached,” he states. “I was pretty proud of them, we had a lot of fun. It was probably the most fun I’ve had coaching.”

He started a pregame ritual of bringing eye black and eye pink to every game and helping the girls put it on, letting them choose the traditional placement under the eyes or even designs on their faces, like tiger stripes. Kalli had her own ritual, she often wore a big pink bow in her hair, a tradition picked up from her cheer sport. Other girls have thrown in components from cheer and dance as well, one teammate launched into a back hand-spring after scoring a touchdown.

“Reeses Pieces, Buttercup! Mess with us, we’ll mess you up!” Kalli chants for me one of the many cheers that they used during the games.

Season’s Reflection

They had a great season, played very competitively and came very close to winning some games. Though they didn’t have any wins on their scorecard, three games came down to the final play before they were overtaken.

Kalli recalls the competitiveness during one of the games. “One boy was screaming so loud, he was the quarterback, he was super mad one time because we kept getting their flags!” She also mentions making a couple of boys cry, which seemed to be a highpoint for the girls.

“They competed just as well as any of the boys’ teams,” adds Dusty.

When I ask Kalli what her favorite part of the season was, she is hesitant to answer. Her dad asks her, “Was it practice?”“No,” she smiles. “Not practice. I liked to run the ball. I also liked defense.”

Goals

Dusty hopes to create a small flag football league that could involve kids up to third, fourth and fifth grade. “I would hope that there would be enough interest for more flag football,” he explains. He would also like to see more girls get involved in the sport.

“I would definitely like to see another girls team,” he states.

After these girls are finished with flag football, they can move into the South Dakota Junior Football league if they wish to start tackle football. He has confidence in their ability and encourages them to continue playing football if they like it. “They can certainly play. If you can play flag (football), you can play tackle.”

The couple have another daughter, Kinsley, who will go into first grade when Kalli finishes up playing flag football, so Dusty will continue coaching for her. With six children in their family, there’s never a dull moment in their house. Caid, age 17, plays varsity football, hockey and baseball; Kobe, age 10, plays tackle football, hockey and baseball; Kalli, age 8, is involved in football, cheer, hockey and softball; Kinsley, age 6 and going into Kindergarten, plays soccer and softball; Kami is four and is going into pre-four pre-school and 16 month-old Koco is the cheerleader of the house who is already learning what a football looks like.

The family contains a blend of professional football fans, from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Denver Broncos. Kalli is a Broncos fan herself, but she said she really loves to watch her older brother Caid play. She would like to continue playing football and wants to play for Yankton’s high school football team, the Yankton Bucks.

More Than A Game

Dusty explains that this team has created a closer bonding for some of the fathers and daughters in the league. The fathers that are football fans can now talk about football with their daughters who have a better understanding of the game.

The girls have built confidence and friendships from the sport, he explains. The boys were very accepting about playing the girls in football.

“None of (the girls) considered that they could play football before. These girls, now at school, they used to watch the boys play football. Now her and her friends that played football are playing football with the boys on the playground.”

The season made an impact on Kalli. Her favorite memory is when she scored a touchdown. Another favorite memory is when a friend of hers, who broke her arm at an earlier practice, played during the season’s last play of the game and made a long run and nearly scored a touchdown.

Kalli mentions that she would like to work more on passing this year and Dusty adds that they focused primarily on covering the fundamentals last year, using more running plays than passing plays. Kalli encourages other girls to play if they want to.

“It would be easy,” she grins.

Dusty questions her. “The boys weren’t too tough for you guys?”

She laughs and exclaims, “No!” We laugh at her candor. I can just imagine how exciting it is to watch her and the other girls on the field.

If your boy or girl child is interested in playing football, information is available at www.yanktonyouthfootball.com or contact Becky Souchek at (402) 460-7928 or by email at yanktonjuniorleaderfootball@hotmail.com or r_souchek@hotmail.com.