League, teammates embrace female youth football player

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PHILADELPHIA, Miss. (WTOK) - Bethsaida’s Josie Skinner first began playing football in the backyard with her cousins. Her father, Jody Skinner, recalls that she had been begging to play organized football from a young age.

“She’d been wanting to play since she was five years old and her mom didn’t want her playing at all – scared she’d get hurt – but I told her mom I said, you know, ‘Now’s the time to let her play,’” Skinner says.

Josie and her father agreed that youth football would be the best opportunity for her to play as it’s before the physicality of the game increases in later years and last season, Josie had her first chance to play youth football in Newton County. This season Josie is a member of the Neshoba County Youth Football Pee Wee Division for 11 and 12-year-olds and out of 105 children league-wide, Josie is the only girl.

“The guys here are really nice and they’re tough and they look out for me at school – it’s just what a team is,” Josie said.

For many of her teammates, this is their first experience playing with a girl and her participation is dispelling any misconceptions her peers might have previously held.

“They’re, they’re a lot tougher than you think like before – they get their work done,” said teammate Grayson McDonald.

Coleman Tingle, also one of Josie’s teammates, knows Josie works just as hard as his other teammates and says she always shows great sportsmanship during practice and games.

“She’s great, I mean, she does her job. She’s really good at it…Most people don’t understand that they can do just as well as us, but they can,” Tingle said. “I mean they’re just as equal as us. I mean we aren’t better than them, we aren’t worse than them. We’re all equal, we’re all the same.”

And it’s not just Josie’s teammates – knowingly or not, according to her coaches and father, Josie’s participation has demonstrated the inclusive nature of youth sports.

“All the younger girls there, they just all love her and they’re like, you know, ‘if she can do it, I can do it,’” her father said. “And that’s what we want. She wants to set that bar to where, you know, if you set your mind to do something, you can do it.”

Josie’s coach, Greg Fulton, says youth football is special because it gives children from different socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds and genders an opportunity to interact together.

“It shows the courage of everybody,” said Coach Fulton. “And it shows that everybody is created equal and everybody has an opportunity to excel in anything that they want to do if they put their mind to it.”

Josie believes that as it is for her, youth football is for everyone.

“I think if they want to, if they put their mind to something bigger than just normal what girls are known to play, I think that it’s a unique thing for girls to play football,” she says.

The season for Neshoba County youth football runs mid-September through mid-November.