Sports editor’s note: As prep sports wind down, marking the end of school and the beginning of summer vacation, the Coastal Courier will spotlight various athletes. In this spotlight we spoke with a female athlete on what it is like to play football with the boys and her true sporting goals for the future.
According to her profile posted on maxpreps.com, Liberty County High School athlete Sidney Wilkinson stands at a mere 4 feet, 11 inches. But her small stature didn’t stop her from playing a predominantly male sport.
During the Panthers’ 8-4 season last fall, Wilkinson went 7 of 10 in point-after attempts in just four games played as one of the two Liberty kickers.
The multi-sport athlete said the thought of playing football started as a joke between her and Panther coach Kirk Warner.
“I was really joking around with coach Warner about it. … I was cheerleading during an Effingham game and they have a girl kicker,” Wilkinson said, noting she knows the girl. “I saw her out there and was like, ‘no way, that’s not possible,’ but she started kicking field goals and that kind of lit a fuel in me.”
Wilkinson went out to football practice and told Warner she wasn’t joking. She showed the coach what she could do and soon she was kicking in games.
“The boys were great and treated me like their little sister,” she said. “They didn’t let anyone pick on me. It was a good feeling.”
She did get a good scare once.
“There was one game in specific,” she said. “I think it was Wayne County. I was kicking an extra point and as I went to kick there was a dude like right in my face. I was so freaked out and I started yelling at my defensive line telling them they better block and not let that guy touch me.”
Wilkinson said the uniform took some getting used to.
“It was heavy and kind of funny at first,” she said. “They couldn’t find pads small enough to fit me. So I ended up using my teammates, Alex Sutton. He was the other kicker and he let me use his pads because they were the smallest pair. … Then they had to find a helmet that fit my head. I even had a pink mouth guard. It was really cute.”
And she said in the end she felt good about her accomplishments.
“Not a lot of girls have that motivation to get out there and do something like that,” she said. “It felt really good to be an inspiration to girls. … You can do whatever you want to. Don’t let being a girl hinder you.
But as the Panthers prepare to wrap up spring training next week, Wilkinson didn’t suit up.
“I did consider football, but I really need to focus on soccer and college and I don’t want to hurt my hip or anything. Soccer is my love and passion and what I want to do in the future,” she said.
Wilkinson said she started playing soccer when she was 3.
“I started at the Liberty County Recreation Department,” Wilkinson said, adding her passion for the sport started at home playing with her older brother, Michael, and his friends.
“It really just grew on me,” Wilkinson, now 16 said. “Like I said, I started playing with my brother. He would always pick on me and it kind of pushed me to do better. I wanted to out-do my brother. He broke his leg while playing in high school and after that I just kind of was playing more for him, and I grew to love the sport. I’ve always loved it.”
Wilkinson said she loves being in the striker position because she likes, “scoring goals. That is what I want to play in college, then maybe play at a national level.”
So for now all her attention is centered on finding the right school. Although she would love for Georgia Southern to come knocking, her current offer is from Brewton-Parker.
She said she is contacting a more schools.
“But at this point it will be wherever I can get in to,” she said.
In June she plans to try out for Savannah United, saying she thinks the coaching staff and personnel there are extremely professional and will help her get ready and recruited to a college.
Wherever she goes, she said she plans to return the favor one day by studying education so she can become a science teacher and coach the sport she loves. She added she liked the idea of becoming an athletic director as well.
“Like Dr. (Warnella) Wilder,” she said. “She has really inspired me. She has offered for me to come in and shadow her. She has really inspired me to do all that.”
Her ultimate goal centers on soccer.
“If I get to the National Team that is where most of the Team USA players come from,” she said. “At this point that is my dream; school and education is important to me, but soccer – that is what I want to do and what I would pick over anything.”