April 13, 2017 · 8:16 AM

LAKER FOOTBALL - Baylie Kennedy looks to set example for other girls in womens football. / Photo submitted

The Sylvan Lake Lakers football team has, for many years, set examples of being an inclusive environemnt when it comes to their roster, the latest example of that being cornerback Baylie Kennedy - a Grade 10 student who recently signed to play with the Edmonton Storm, an all girls football team.

“I am playing for them right now,” she said. “This is my fourth year playing football and the three years before this I have been playing with all guys. Playing with guys, you get treated a little differently. Guys can be hesitant because they don’t know how to hit you. It is nice to feel treated equally.”

Kennedy hopes the lessons she learns this season with Storm will help her gain more playing time with the Lakers next season.

“I feel like I will get a bit more teaching for when I go back to playing for the Lakers next year,” she said, adding that she hopes other girls see the opportunities that come with playing football for the Lakers.

“I hope that by the time I graduate there will be other girls that have come up and joined,” she said. “I feel like guys may tell them not to play football because they aren’t strong enough. I have had a few people say ‘aren’t you a bit too small’ and I’ll say ‘yeah I’m a bit small but my size doesn’t matter.’ I just know that I can do it and that other peoples opinions of me playing football don’t matter unless they are positive. I don’t care about the negative comments.”

Laker Coach Jeremy Braitenbach has been impressed with the way Kennedy carries herself on the football field.

“She is not the first girl we have had on the Lakers but she is the first one we have had in a while,” he said. “A lot of the girls that have played before had success. With Baylie, we never thought of her on the field as a girl. She doesn’t expect preferential treatment - she always wants to be treated as a player.”

Braitenbach was pleased that Kennedy had the opportunity to sign with the Edmonton Storm.

“It is great she has the opportunity to play for this women’s team in Edmonton,” she said. “When we see stories like Baylie, we at Sylvan Lake Minor Football like to think we have had a hand in their development. We expect everyone to come out and earn their playing time and Baylie is aware of that, and she responds to that. With this Western Canada league that’s forming, it is giving them opportunities to play beyond high school and creates more of an even playing field for women in football.”

Braitenbach feels that players like Kennedy can change the image that football sometimes has.

“It hopefully won’t be viewed as a chauvinistic sport as much,” he said.

Kennedy hopes to continue to become a better football player and also looks to encourage other girls to join Sylvan Lake Minor Football as a Bear, Lion or Laker.

“I want them to do what their heart desires,” she said. “I don’t want them to hear the negative comments. I want them learning football to be positive, and I want them to get the education they need to go further with it, like I hope too.”

Braitenbach also sees Kennedy developing with the Lakers and hopes she encourages other girls in Sylvan Lake to come out.

“I think she is capable of excelling with this team because of her fitness level,” he said. “I see her developing as she works hard and earns more playing minutes. I hope her story shows girls that there is more opportunity for girls to play football.”