Female Representation on the Football Field

San Leandro High Student Mayari Salgado Salgado Talks About Her Journey in Becoming a Football Player.


As Junior Mayari Salgado Salgado gets ready for her football games, she is aware that she might have to be prepared for anything — she has heard it all, from belittling comments to praise after her games.

Salgado’s position is Tackle on the JV team and she has been in the San Leandro School District since grade school. Football is part of her long journey as an athlete.

“In elementary school I played soccer, in middle school I did kickboxing, boxing, and Muay Thai. High school I did Water polo and Swimming all throughout freshman and sophomore year,” said Salgado.

But she was not able to play football when she started at San Leandro High.

“My parents would not allow me since I was a girl,” she said.

She persisted.

“I found the opportunity when they sent out emails saying conditioning was about to start. So I signed up and told my parents it was just conditioning, no sport attached. Eventually I told them it was football,” she said.

Salgado’s motive for joining the team was different from many of her teammates.

“I had taken interest in the sport mainly because I always wanted to do things you don’t always see girls do traditionally,” she said. 

Salgado has not received any career altering injuries while playing football, but it has been challenging.

“It is mostly bruises and some strained muscles,” she said, “I realized over the summer when we did conditioning almost everyday Monday through Thursday 1:30 to 5:30. And I don’t know. I just thought to myself if I could do it over the summer and run, be in the heat, continue, not slack off, and do it daily. I had a moment in which I knew that I could do it for another two months.”

According to Salgado the San Leandro High football team has been supportive of her.

“The vibe you get off from them (teammates). Sometimes you just have these good days that you feel like you will never forget. It is a feeling you have with the people you are surrounded with,” she said.

Salgado describes her least favorite part of the season.

“Running hundreds. You should write hundreds, specifically hundreds,” she said.

It is very uncommon for females to play football in High School and elsewhere. Although, these past years the amount of female players has increased. Salgado is one of two female football players at San Leandro High.

“People were just really shocked that a girl could play football…” Salgado said, “People appreciate that I am a girl in football and I can take hits and stuff but people really go into depth and don’t understand and say things like ‘Oh you’re so brave for doing a masculine sport’ basically playing into the masculine stereotype of being a guy and sucking it up.”

Salgado has to deal with comments such as “you’re good for a girl.”

“Sometimes it is hard hearing them say ‘look at her she can do it better than you and she is a girl.’ It kind of belittles the hard work I put in,” Salgado said.

On the field, people can’t even tell she’s a girl.

“People do not know there is a girl on the team, sometimes people come to our practices and they see me take off my helmet for water and go ‘oh yo, you’re in football, I did not know there can be girls in this team” and I am like, ‘yeah,’” she said.

Salgado said she had a few reasons for joining football. 

“The main reason was to prove to myself that I was able to do something that I would have never thought I would be able to do. Like I always put in my head because you’re a girl you can’t do it or I thought I wasn’t going to be strong enough or I was just going to get pushed around a lot. I also did it, because I know my sophomore year I saw a girl do it and she opted out, she was only there for like a week but it was nonetheless motivating me to do it. When I joined I was just like, I hope I can motivate someone to also do it next year, this year, or the year after that,” she said.

Salgado regretted not playing football earlier on in high school, and wants others to consider playing.

She said, “I know I regret not doing football my freshman and sophomore year so just go for it. Give it a try if you don’t like it you can alway quit, you can always stop and find something else you like, but trying never hurts and giving it a shot never hurts”.

Salgado also described how her family felt when she first told them.

“My parents were not supportive,” she said, “They kinda are now much more than they were before. Daily they would be like, ‘this is your last week and you’re not going back.’ They were just worried about me. It was nothing bad, they just did not want to see their daughter get hit. I come home with bruises and swollen wrists, legs, arms and like my face got messed up over the summer.” 

Salgado concluded her description on the support received and her experience.

“I did not have full support but some people were really cool about it saying ‘yeah you go show what’s up, show people that we [girls] can do it,” she said.

Salgado explained she didn’t expect anything to come from playing football.

“I didn’t think I was going to talk to a lot of them. I didn’t think I was going to be friends with a lot of them or talk to any of them. But some of them have become my closest friends and some of them are really really nice. I didn’t expect them to be. It’s a nice feeling when you are with the right people, it’s just like you feel welcomed,” she said.

That wasn’t always the case according to Salgado.

“At first I didn’t feel welcomed at all but then once everyone got used to each other, we were all getting along. It was awkward me coming in and them being like ‘Oh I didn’t know girls could join’ and ‘Oh I didn’t know girls would actually be joining the team’ and now it is just like ‘yeah this is my teammate’ it feels welcoming,” Salgado said, “There are some people I do not talk to on the team but when it comes to us having to be a team and a community then we do come together to become a team, when we have to be serious and we know we are really committed to it. We do what we have to do. Most of the time we do that and sometimes we have our off days. At the end of the day we all just want to be there and win.”

Salgado is not sure she is interested in college football.

“I have my mind set on other things and it is not really my goal,” she said. 

Salgado encourages others to try news no matter the barriers and social norms.

“If there is anyone who wants to join no matter what your gender is no matter who you are just try it out, it’s scary at first. It is like learning a new subject at school. At first it’s going to be pretty hard in the beginning but eventually you’ll get it you know. It’s something if you’re down to try it go ahead you know it’s very much of a learning experience,” Salgado said.