It took Ava Ulfwengren a year to convince her parents to let her play football.
At first they told her no. Joni Scalzo Ulfwengren says she was worried about injuries. Mom to 12-year-old Ava, Joni was also concerned about her daughter playing a sport dominated by boys. “The girls get criticized for being on a boys team. So that was kind of a big thing,” says Joni.
But after a year of pleading with her parents, Ava was allowed to suit up.
Three years later, Ava’s not just a valued member of her Bellevue Wolverine Sophomore youth football team, she’s one one of the fiercest players out there. Coach Hugh Gladner says regardless of gender, Ava shows up to play. “She’s got great instincts. She started at guard and all the coaches started telling me, she’s got to play linebacker, she’s got to play linebacker,” says Gladner.
"I just kind of like hitting," says Ava who has played every position from nose guard to safety. Her favorite position so far, is on the defensive line, where Ava gets to tackle.
"I think she hits pretty hard and she can tackle pretty well," says George Kruger, one of Ava's teammates. Kruger plays on the defensive line next to Ava and says he's learning a lot from his teammate. "She can focus well, and just plays well," says Kruger.
The reservations Ava's parents had when she first stepped onto the football field have now faded. Joni says she now cheers proudly from the stands. "She's showing kids that you can totally accomplish anything," says Joni. "I get really inspired by her. For me, it just makes me want to work that much harder at what I want to accomplish in my life too. So her dad and I are really proud of her."
Ava's team went undefeated this season, and beat Skyline in the championship game Saturday in Bothell.
When asked if she'd like to continue playing football, Ava says maybe. She also plays basketball, baseball and swims.