Female athletes discuss playing on predominately mens’ teams.
By Hallie Underwood, ‘20 and Josie Stewart, ‘21
With any sporting event, it can get heated and competitive quickly. On the field, water, court and maths athletes line up to prepare, but for sophomore Isa DiBenedetto and senior Paige Kompa, getting ready can shock the other competitors.
SWING LIKE A GIRL
Senior Paige Kompa began playing tennis with her sister through the junior program at the Racquet Club of Columbus at just six years old. Flash forward to her freshman year—she and her sister won states in doubles for the UAHS team.
After a conflict in the fall of last year that interfered with tennis practices and games, Kompa found herself trying out for the boys’ tennis team.
Kompa had grown up playing tennis with many of the boys on the team through clinics in Columbus.
“Tennis is one of those sports where the high-level girls play in the same tennis clinics with the high-level boys, so it really feels no different to me,” Kompa said. “The guys are great. I think I had to earn their respect, but once they saw that I can really contribute to the team, it was all good.”
Kompa said she believes tennis teaches you to be strategic and mentally tough.
“You can only control what happens on your side of the net and I think that’s a good metaphor for life,” Kompa said. “I try to control what I do and play to the highest level of my ability.”
WRESTLE LIKE A GIRL
DiBenedetto wrestles for the Golden Grapplers and joined the sport in eighth grade, although she was not able to participate for most of the season due to an injury.
“My brother was a state qualifier. He wrestled. My dad wrestled. I’m just part of a wrestling family and I was just like ‘I could do that,’” DiBenedetto said. “Me and my brother used to get into fights in the living room and he used to throw me. I had a great time knocking furniture over.”
She competes against mainly men on opposing teams in her own weight class at a height of only five feet. She is the only female wrestler at the high school but doesn’t mind the divide in gender.
“It would be kind of nice to have another girl on the team, but I like getting the work in with a lot of the guys,” DiBenedetto said. “They don’t treat me differently [because I’m a girl].”
Although it is rare to see girls in mens’ wrestling teams, DiBenedetto said she has seen several.
“I enjoy seeing girls on the other teams and I’ve seen up to six now,” DiBenedetto said. “It is cool to see more females partake in wrestling. It’s one of the fastest growing sports among young women now.”
She encourages other girls to join wrestling if they’re interested.
“Sometimes the guys [on the other team] don’t even know I’m a female. To be honest, sometimes I even forget that I’m a female,” DiBenedetto said jokingly. “ It’s a good sport that [I like]. Just go out and do it.”
Media courtesy Kickin’ It Live and Lisa Drake. Photos by Grace Call.