All photos by Lori Mahan.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Sequoia Cumming, a senior, is the first female football player for the Saratoga Blue Streaks. She is the kicker for the team and has attempted two kicks thus far this season.
Head Coach Terry Jones, who was an assistant coach for the football team from 1999 until 2007 when he became the head coach, said this is the first female he’s ever had on his team.
“We had an informational meeting last spring for anyone interested in playing football and she showed up. At that meeting, everyone there was given information about summer workouts and everything and she did not miss a single work out all summer. She was one of only two players on our freshmen, JV, or Varsity teams who did not miss a single workout. And here she is. That’s the story,” Jones explained.
Sequoia had her own reasons for playing, “It started out as health reasons, I wanted to take up a sport that was vigorous in the weight room and cardio and physical activity. I did play sports all my life but never through the school so they were never that challenging. I just wanted some kind of crazy goal that I could reach and football was it.”
Coach Jones said that there is no real difference between her and her fellow male team members.
“The only difference is she changes in the locker room across the hall from the rest of the guys. Other than that, there’s no difference. She’s not treated differently at practice; she doesn’t expect to be treated any differently. She’s not treated any differently in the weight room, either. The team has been very open and accepting and I guess the biggest difference, is when I say ‘alright guys let’s go,’ obviously I mean everybody. She just laughs and goes ‘I know,’” Jones explained.
Cumming said her biggest obstacle is the fact that she’s completely new to football. She played soccer her whole life but “kicking a soccer ball is much different from kicking a football. So, it’s just trying to get better at that throughout the whole season. It’s a work in progress,” she said.
Her biggest achievement so far has been in the weight room.
“Seeing your numbers increase in there and seeing it pay off on the field is amazing,” Cumming said.
Jones agrees, “It’s a long process to be the backup kicker, which she is right now, but she doesn’t complain, not a word. She comes to work every day and works hard every day, works to get better every day, and she has gotten better. She’s gotten stronger, her endurance and her abilities when she does kick. They’ve all improved. She’s stronger in the weight room. She was saying she thinks she’s in the best shape of her life. She’s made a lot of new friends and gained a lot of respect of a lot of people.”
The coaches and teammates immediately embraced Cumming, “We’re just one big family, we all work together, and we’re all just trying to get to the same place,” Cumming said.
“Every year during the pre-season we have an event called Meet the Players Night where we bring in the teams and they’re introduced in front of family and friends for the first time in their uniform. I’ve been at Saratoga since 1999 as an assistant and I’ve been the head coach since 2007, and I’ve never seen a player get an ovation from the entire crowd, but she did this year,” Jones laughed.
Cumming on the team has definitely sparked the school body’s interest, but not in a negative way.
“A lot of people ask me about it, they’re curious which I understand. A lot of people say ‘hi, good luck at the game! What time is practice until tonight?’ They’re very interested,” Cumming explained.
When asked if she would continue the sport in college she wasn’t sure.
“I haven’t really decided yet, I think it would be cool to take it on as a club sport in college but I am definitely going to be an avid watcher throughout the rest of my life,” Cumming said.
The Seahawks are her favorite football team.
As with any team sport, there is a magic that happens between a team who are all on board with the same goal.
“Before our first game in Niskayuna, there was this whole energy that I feel like you couldn’t find anywhere else. It was really cool just to see the teammates light up and realize that this is our time to really just prove ourselves on the field,” Cumming explained with a sparkle in her eyes.
“She’s very well liked by the players, I think she’s very well respected by the players for how hard she works out there,” Jones wrapped up.
One thing is certain, Sequoia Cumming is the first female football player in Blue Streaks last 18 years, and that is certainly something to be proud of.