Farmer trades pom-poms for shoulder pads

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 23, 2001

PEDRO – Tabitha Farmer was a typical little girl.

Thursday, August 23, 2001

PEDRO – Tabitha Farmer was a typical little girl. She was a cheerleader in the youth football league in both the second and third grade. Then came the fourth grade.

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"I quit the day before cheerleader practice began and told my mom I wanted to play football," Farmer said.

And she did. In fact, she has continued playing the past five years and is now a freshman for the Rock Hill Redmen.

Although Farmer enjoys playing football, it wasn’t all fun and games initially.

"The boys were kind of mean to me at first, then they got used to it," said Farmer. "But it’s been a blast."

Farmer is a 5-foot-4, 130-pound freshman tight end and defensive back. She said her size is becoming a factor.

"There’s a big difference The guys get a whole lot bigger than me every year. That means I have to work twice as hard or they aren’t going to hit me. And trust me, they hit me," said Farmer.

But getting hit is part of football and Rock Hill head coach Bob McCollister said that hasn’t been a problem.

"She’s a good kid and works hard. She can take a hit," McCollister said.

Having a female on a team sport that is traditionally for only males, McCollister had to make a few minor adjustments. Still, he said that the only adjustments are off the field, not on it.

"Obviously, you have to have separate locker rooms and avoid those kinds of situations, but in terms of practice and games, she is treated no differently," McCollister said. "She plays the same in all the drills. We have the same expectations for her as we have for anybody. If she wants to play, there’s a certain level she has to play at that as anybody else does in order to play."

Farmer is looking to start offense, punt returns, extra points, and kickoff returns on the junior varsity team. Regardless of what happens, she appreciates what McCollister has done for her.

"Coach McCollister has been the best thing. He gave me the visitor’s locker room myself. If I have a problem, I tell him and he takes care of it. He’s a wonderful coach," Farmer said.

No matter what happens this season, Farmer is planning to play throughout her high school career. All she wants is a fair chance and she believes McCollister won’t show any bias.

"I’d like to continue playing. I’d like to start varsity some day, but there’s a lot of competition. My plan was to play all the way through high school," said Farmer. "Coach McCollister is a wonderful coach and he will give me the benefit of the doubt."

Even though she is not in the spotlight as a player, Farmer is already somewhat of a role model for the other girls in the school.

"The senior girls come up to me and say, ‘You’re so cool to play football.’ They ask me what locker room talk is like. I’m shocked by some of the questions. And they ask me how I take it. I tell them I play as hard as I can and take it. Hopefully I’ll get to play in the games," Farmer said.

"I just hope there are girls out there who aren’t afraid to try different stuff. Just don’t be afraid of it. If you want to try something, just step up and try it."

Rock Hill opens the season at Northwest Friday and Farmer has her fingers crossed that she will get a chance to play.

"I’m very excited. I can’t wait. I wouldn’t trade football for the world. I’m hoping we’ll have a better team," Farmer said.

Tabitha is the daughter of Kendra and Troy Farmer.