Breaking Barriers, Aguilar Takes The Field
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Sep 5, 2014, 08:31
HOPEWELL — At first glance, there seems to be nothing out of the ordinary at the Blue Devils football practice. Yes, the team is practicing indoors because of the extreme heat outside, but other than the change of scenery from foliage to the yellow-tint of a gymnasium, it's business as usual.
Divided into sections around the gym, the players are divided into separate drills involving the lineman, cornerbacks, wide receivers, running backs and quarterbacks. They go through these drills in rapid succession with each player intent on impressing the coaches with each successful catch or read.
On the surface, it's just an ordinary practice with each player aiming to improve themselves before the season, but one player in particular is looking to make a name for herself. That player is Lisa Aguilar who is listed as a cornerback on the Hopewell roster.
Aguilar is not one to look for attention. She views herself as someone playing a game she grew up watching, but even she can see why there is an added focus on her play. While it is not unprecedented to see female football players — it has been done before even among several Division I football programs — it is uncommon for those pursuing a job while playing the cornerback position.
And Aguilar recognizes this fact while discussing her decision to play football, noting her kicking skills are not exactly the best, making her focused on making the team in another capacity. But even while noting all of the facts, it's still not a big deal to a young lady who is breaking some barriers within the Hopewell football program.
"I'm just playing a game, right?" she answered after being asked why she decided to play the game. "My family has always been big on football, so I always thought it would be cool if I played."
But her addition to the Hopewell team is not the first time Aguilar has graced a football roster. She started playing football during her middle school days, but not recently because of constant movement from her family who are members of the military.
In fact, when she takes the field Friday night in Hopewell's season-opener at Merner Field, it will be the first time she takes the field in a competitive game in about two and a half years. It's a moment she is extremely excited about. After going through a month-long ordeal of training camp in the summer heat, she's longing to have the experience of seeing those Friday night lights.
Yet, she isn't the only one experiencing excitement. Her family, who has helped her learn the game of football and created a passion for it within her, were ecstatic when she told them of her desire to join the Blue Devils. However, it is also a memorable moment for Hopewell head coach Ricky Irby who has seen Aguilar work as hard as anyone else.
He discussed her improvement over the past month and how she has taken to the learning of different techniques quickly, showing a desire to get better, making it a powerful moment for the program.
"It's awesome and I think it's great," he said during a practice earlier this week. "I think it's great for our program, it's great for Lisa, great for women in general and she's a great kid. We treat her like anyone else on this team and I don't think she'd want it any other way."
He's right about that.
Aguilar is uncomfortable with the extra attention she receives for playing a game dominated by her male peers and likes to be treated as any other player. However, that's becoming more difficult to do with more and more females breaking sports barriers each day.
After the runaway success of Mon'e Davis at the Little League World Series, many are asking the question of the possibility a woman can ever play Major League Baseball. In football, Holly Mangold — the sister of New York Jets offensive lineman Nick Mangold — made waves as the first female non-kicker to play in an Ohio Division III high school football game.
However, Aguilar does not see a future in football. She sees it as a way to help develop other life skills which are essential to her accomplishing a goal of joining law enforcement in some capacity.
"It's physical and you to think," she said of how the game tests a person. "I like that you have to think through everything before you do it. You have to analyze in a quick amount of seconds and if you can do that here, you can do it anywhere."
And Aguilar has seen her teammates rally around her and provide help whenever it is needed. After all, to the players on the roster, she is just that to them as well, a player. To them, it is no big deal that she is a female donning the shoulder pads and helmets.
Instead, they view her as another teammate who can be key to winning a game whether it be with her work in practice or a possible play in a game. Aguilar has appreciated her teammates' support as she tries to push forward and earn time on the field during a regular season game. She hasn't thought about how other females may view her story, but if it does inspire them to try something out of the norm, it would be a humbling experience.
"It's nice to think so, but it also depends on the person about how they take what I've done," she explained. "Some people may think this is inspiring and someone else may think it's completely normal."
Whether Aguilar inspires other females to go out of their comfort zone within sports or life in general is not her goal. Her goal is to just play the game she loves, learning life lessons which will help her in a future that looks less daunting with each barrier she breaks down.