Cass Tech welcomed their first female player, Avery Ali, onto its 2022 football team. Ali, a sophomore, was discovered after a JV coach Fenton noticed her athletic talent in a physical education class.
“I saw she was athletic, then we talked about it a little bit,” Fenton said. “It wasn't until June and July did she come out for conditioning and joined the 7 on 7, then became a part of the football team.”
According to the Michigan High School Athletic Association, in 2019, 112 girls played on a high school football team out of 750 players statewide.
“I chose football because really my whole family has been around football a lot of the time,” said Ali. “My brother plays football. My dad played football and he's a coach.”
Ali plays as a cornerback, a defensive position on the field. It’s considered one of the hardest positions to play and requires you to be fast, agile, and tough.
“I would say that a lot of them are stronger than me, bigger than me, faster than me,” Ali said. “So I gotta work 10 times harder because they already have an advantage over me.”
While being the only girl on the team, Ali is treated the same as everyone else on the team.
“It’s no different,” Fenton said. “So the way we support her is by being fair and being honest and when she does what she’s supposed to do, give her the opportunity to play.”
As the season continues, Ali hopes to grow as a player.
“Some of my goals are to just get better at my position, do my job, and help the team,” Ali said.
Fenton made it clear that Avery Ali belongs on the field.
“I want you to understand that she gets everything she works for,” Fenton said. “You know, we're just not out there saying she’s a girl, we're gonna let her play. You can ask anybody from the littlest JV player to the head varsity coach. They’ll tell you Avery puts in that work in order to get on the football field and when she gets on the football field, you play how you practice.”