Play Like A Girl

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Olivia Yocum shows off her girl power on the gridiron

By Gerard Flanagan

She saw her future team play from the sidelines as a cheerleader.
Watching her brother play football, Olivia Yocum told her dad she wanted to play.
She traded in her pom poms for a football helmet, and she feels right at home on the gridiron.
Olivia, 8, is in her second season playing football for the Marion County Little Knights. She’s the only girl playing in the Marion County Youth League. But, she doesn’t give that a second thought.
“We are family,” she said about her relationship with her teammates. “They’re like brothers to me. I like playing football and it just feels normal to me.”
What makes playing even more special for Olivia is that her father, Chris Yocum, is her coach.
“It’s a blast,” he said. “She saw everyone play and she’s loved it ever since. To see her play a sport many say is only for boys is awesome. It shows she can do what she wants to do. It’s a proud dad moment every time she steps on the field. She has a desire to be better.”
Chris has also coached his son, Christopher Yocum, Jr., in football. Yocum has coached football for eight years.
“I look forward to every season and I have fallen in love with it,” he said.
Yocum said his passion for football originally began with his Uncle Joe Bell, former police chief, who was the founder of Marion County Youth League Football approximately 30 years ago.
“He changed our county and our sports program in general,” Yocum said. “It is definitely his legacy he left to our county and I hope to be able to keep it going in honor of him and his years of dedication to the community and its youth. I wish I had gotten the honor to coach with him but I thank him for pointing me to coaching and helping me find something that I love this much. I hope I can help as many kids to learn about more than just sports as he did.”
Olivia said her passion for football began when she was watching the team warm up before a game. Then, she began going through some of the drills the football team did and eventually, after impressing the coaches, they suggested she put on pads. She admitted she was nervous in her first football game, but once she began playing, the nerves went away.
“It makes me feel like I can do what I want to do if I put the effort into it,” Olivia said.
Olivia’s mother, Amanda Gray, was originally against the idea of Olivia playing football but once she saw her play, she became more comfortable with it.
“I didn’t want her getting hurt,” Amanda said, “but I saw she loved it, she was good at it and I let her go with her dreams. She plays with the boys and she’s just as tough.”
Olivia and the Little Knights - undefeated at 9-0 - will be competing in the state tournament in Owensboro on Nov. 18-19. She registers around two sacks and three to four tackles per game, according to Chris. Olivia plays defensive end, right guard and right tackle.
Chris said that being a female hasn’t held his daughter back from pursuing her love for football.
“I’m really proud of her,” he said. “Football is family for her, not just a team.”
And Olivia has a message to all the girls out there who are pursuing their dreams.
“I want to inspire other girls to play football,” she said. “I want to let girls know they can do anything they want to.”