As a first grader in the Greenfield Youth Football League cheerleading program, Emma Mersch rooted on the sideline while her older brother, Malachi, took part in the on-field action. It seemed to Emma, however, that big brother was having all the fun and, beginning in second grade, Emma decided to put on a helmet and pads and start tackling people — mostly boys.
Emma, now a 10-year-old fifth grader at Greenfield Intermediate School, recently finished her fourth season competing in the GYFL. She suited up this year for the Chicago Bears.
“She loves it,” Emma’s mom, Jamie Axum said, adding that she didn’t hesitate to let her daughter participate. “I was excited. A lot of people were like, ‘How could you let her do that?’ But I just thought, ‘Go Emma, more power to you.’”
Darryk Dorman is the GYFL commissioner, and he was also coach of Emma’s team this season. Dorman said that it’s not uncommon for a few girls to play in the GYFL lower age groups, “but you rarely see them still playing by fifth and sixth grade. But Emma really enjoys it. And she always made sure you knew she was a girl. I’d say, ‘Come on guys!’ and she would add, ‘and girl!’”