Valerie Fryberger thought it would be something fun. She wanted to sign up to play "powder-puff football," but after learning that York County Tech didn't have anything of the sort in 1991 — she improvised. She signed up to play high school football.
It was her first high school sport. Her first season in football. And in the process, she created a stir.
She and classmate Renee Housseal became the first girls to play varsity football in the YAIAA that fall. They were the first females to play varsity football in central Pennsylvania, and the York Daily Record reported at the time that they may have been the first female players in the state.
"They went through hell," Tech coach Darrell Markley told the Allentown Morning Call in August 1991. "Ninety percent of the guys hit them harder."
Fryberger survived the physical punishment.
"I got hit harder than some of the guys. ... I had no problem with it, because that's what I signed up for," she said, recalling her one season on the football team.
Fryberger, however, didn't expect to be the focus of attention.
"I just wanted to play football," she told the York Daily Record in September 1992. "That's all I wanted to do. It's not that I wanted to get attention, because I didn't expect any."
She heard everyone's viewpoint on her decision.
Some loved it. Some hated it. And most of the people let her know how they felt.
"You just got a mixture (of viewpoints)," Fryberger said in May, recalling her season on the Spartans' football team. "My dad was a little iffy. I was his little girl playing with boys, he was concerned."
Her uncle loved the situation, because he could teach her aspects of the game.
She remembers being accepted by the rest of the team originally, and then the awkward moment when opponents made fun of Tech for having girls as teammates. And then the fallout, some teammates not being as welcoming as they had been. In 1992, she recalled a junior varsity opponent making kissing gestures at her after she tackled him.
"For the most part, we were treated fairly," Fryberger, who graduated from the school in 1994, said in late May.
But it never was about them.
For Fryberger, who still lives close to her childhood home in East Prospect, it was a season of perseverance.
"It was something I'll always cherish and remember," Fryberger said. "It's something nice I can tell my daughter about. I thought it was going to be easy, but it turned out to be very challenging. ... It was trying. It's something that pushed you to your limits."
But she kept playing
Even after she received all the unwanted attention.
Even when she struggled to keep going.
And the reward might seem small, but she still calls surviving that first season an accomplishment.
She can still remember a teammate picking her and carrying her down field after a big play.
"That was awesome," Fryberger said, "just the unity of the team."
And she was part of that team.
Contact Jim Seip at 771-2025.
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