There have been several Fort Worth-area girls who have broken the gender barrier, donning football cleats and taking the field to play the “boys’ sport.”
But it’s tough to find any girl who has also been a cheerleader.
Introducing Keller Hillwood Middle School’s Peyton Barnhart.
Barnhart, an eighth grader, has just finished a season of kicking for the C-team, allowing her to keep cheering for the A and B teams.
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While she has been involved in cheerleading and tumbling since she was little, her chance to become a kicker came more recently.
During a Partners in PE activity last April (Barnhart has a brother with special needs), boys were kicking a football, and the determined Barnhart wanted a shot to see what she could do.
Barnhart kicked a 30-yarder.
The boys assured her it was a lucky kick, so Barnhart teed it up again — and nailed it.
Sure, there are a few other girls kicking for their football teams after picking up the nuances of kicking a ball from playing soccer.
But Barnhart has never played soccer. And doesn’t want to, either.
They’re pretty chill about it.
Peyton Barnhart, on how the boys on her football team treat her
Still, the concept of playing for the Huskies football team wasn’t anything mom and dad were crazy about. They said “no” to the idea.
Barnhart used her parents’ own life philosophy against them, though.
“She reminded us that we had always told her that she can be anything she wants to be,” said Barnhart’s mother, Rebecca.
“That blew up in our face,” Rebecca said, laughing.
Barnhart flagged down the head football coach at Hillwood, Mike Stitt, and told him she wanted to be a kicker. She kicked a close-range attempt. He moved her back. She hit it again.
“’You’re not going to like this, mom, but she’s actually really good and I could use her,’” Stitt told Rebecca.
Now, Barnhart has her sights set on trying out for the Central cheer team in her freshman year and seeing if she can crack the JV lineup as a kicker.
“I want to be able to go to high school (to kick) but my mom doesn’t want me to,” Barnhart said. “She wants me to be a cheerleader, but I think I could balance it.”
The challenge only seems to fuel Barnhart, who is also a solid student, taking pre-AP classes while juggling both cheer and football practice.
In fact, Barnhart felt guilty just doing the kicking chores and made it clear she wanted to be a part of the conditioning program the rest of the boys on the team have to do.
That level of commitment has helped forge an understanding by the boys that they are all playing the same sport together, while Barnhart admits some girls are a bit puzzled as to why she’d want to play a “boy’s sport.”
There aren’t any strange looks from the boys on the team, Barnhart said.
“They’re pretty chill about it,” she said.