By Chris McCarthy/Editor
Katie Smith doesn’t consider herself a barrier-breaker.
She’s simply fulfilling a dream she’s had since the age of 7.
The Glencoe High sophomore has tried out for and made the school’s football team as a kicker. A member of the school’s girls soccer team, she mainly will play for the JV but also will be on the sideline every Friday night this fall for the GHS varsity.
“I’ve wanted to do this for a long time, and I’m glad that Coach Ozmint let me have the chance to do it,” she said. “I’m used to kicking the ball in soccer, but football is a different game.”
Three things that Katie’s teammates won’t have to be concerned with are her athletic ability, toughness and the ability to perform under pressure. She’s been playing fall and spring competitive soccer for the local Fusion Fotbol Club for the past several years, during which time she’s dished out and absorbed her share of collisions.
Katie already has kicked in a game situation, as she attempted a field goal during a spring jamboree at Jacksonville State in May.
“The stride [in kicking a football] came naturally, but the aiming is a little different,” she said. “Me and my dad got out and practice and I’ve been watching videos on YouTube, and I work at it at practice while the guys are going at it, so I think I’m gradually improving.”
GHS head football coach Lee Ozmint noted that Katie approached him one day last spring and requested a tryout as a kicker. Ozmint agreed, and he was pleased with what he saw.
“Katie’s a very good soccer player and she has great contact with the ball,” Ozmint said. “She’s got a long way to go, but her accuracy is getting better. (Senior) Andrew Lang is our starting kicker right now, but Katie is a viable backup. She’ll definitely have the opportunity to start next year.”
Ozmint pointed out that Katie is not a part-time member of the team who shows up, gets in a few reps and departs before the final whistle of practice.
“She practices every day and runs and lift weights just like everyone else on the team. She’s a very serious athlete and a competitor who is going our there to contribute. Katie’s also a really good kid, which is what we’re looking for more so than anything in our program.”
Katie’s fellow sophomores on the football team already knew her and were accepting of her, but she pointed out that the Yellow Jacket upperclassmen were just as welcoming when she joined
“The guys in the upper grades have accepted me from the start,” she said. “They’ve all been great and treated me really well.”
Katie is following in the footsteps of her dad Craig, a 1991 Glencoe High graduate who was an All-County lineman for the Yellow Jackets. He is also an assistant coach for the GHS girls soccer team.
Smith said his daughter showed an aptitude for kicking from an early age, noting that she won all but one of the kicking competitions at the Etowah County Ele-mentary School track meets from the third through sixth grades.
“She always told me that her dream was to kick for the football team, and I just laughed at her,” he said. “But she kept on at it, so I got her a regulation high school football for Christmas a few years ago and she’s been practicing with it quite a bit.
“As far as the possibility of her getting hurt, there’s just as much possibility when she’s playing soccer. If she’s capable of doing something, I’m not going to tell her she can’t do it just because she’s a girl.”
The lone accommodation for Katie was the construction of a 10×10 locker room on the second floor of the school’s field house. The room was financed by the school’s athletic foundation and built by her dad Craig with assistance by Stephen Rogers and Glenn Bright, the father of former GHS kicker Joseph Bright. Smith noted that Joseph Bright has been very helpful in Katie’s progression from soccer to football kicking.
“I wanted her close to the locker room and not have to change at a building at the other end of the field,” Ozmint explained.
Katie’s major hurdle was convincing her mom Lisa’s concerns about possible injury or mistreatment. It took Katie about a year, but she finally wore Lisa down and got her permission to try out.
“I kept asking and asking her and finally I told her that I was going to do it,” said Katie.
The Yellow Jackets open the season on Saturday (Aug. 22) against Gordo in Montgomery. Glencoe hosts Plainview on Aug. 28.