By Denny Freidenrich
After winning this year’s Heisman Trophy, USC’s Caleb Williams thanked his teammates, coaches, friends and parents for helping him achieve his boyhood goal of becoming a great quarterback.
I’m glad he told the story about the plan he and his father created when Caleb was only 10.
During his extended remarks, Williams urged young athletes who’ve been told they are too small or slow to play varsity ball to keep trying. Make a plan to exercise daily, eat well, learn everything you can about the position you want to play and return to the field the following year. And if it takes another year, then stick to your plan. As his father told young Caleb, “Success is the result of hard work. And hard work requires a plan.”
I’m not sure the newly minted Heisman winner was thinking about young girls following in his footsteps, so let me amplify his message a bit. Teenage girls generally play the same sports boys do in high school today. They compete in tennis, water polo, basketball, cross country, swimming, volleyball, surfing, soccer, baseball (Okay, softball for now) and several other sports.
They also have begun playing varsity football. Laguna Beach’s Bella Rasmussen made sports history this past fall by becoming the first girl in California to score two touchdowns in a single high school game. If you ask me, it won’t be long before big-time college programs allow women a chance to make their various men’s teams. Not as a public relations stunt, but because they deserve to be given a shot.
I wonder how Kaleigh Gilchrist, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and Corona del Mar High School graduate, would have reacted had she been asked to play on the men’s water polo team when she was at ‘SC?
Participating as an athlete isn’t the only place where women are making their presence known. They also are officiating major sports.
Here’s what retired NFL side judge Laird Hayes of Newport Beach recently told me: “For the first time ever, three women officiated a World Cup match. I wasn’t surprised, since there is a growing sisterhood of referees in professional sports. This includes at least eight female officials in the NFL and NBA combined.”
Caleb Williams clearly earned his Heisman Trophy. It won’t shock me if someday a 20-something young woman doesn’t credit him for helping her win the same award.
Denny Freidenrich is a 1970 graduate of USC. He first moved to Laguna Beach more than 50 years ago.