BEEKMANTOWN — Desire Sydnor’s love of football began at age 11, playing pickup games on the playground during recess with the boys.
In middle school, when Beekmantown Central School’s modified football coaches heard Sydnor wanted to join the team, they joked with her about it when they passed her in the hall.
“I guess they thought it was a kind of joke,” the 16-year-old said.
But at the end of sixth grade, as Sydnor handed her mother her report card, she told her she was going to try out for the team.
Her mother, Kelly Sydnor, refused to allow it, but Desire didn’t back down.
“I was, like, ‘If you don’t sign my papers (to join the team) I’m going to purposely fail (school) until you do,” she remembers telling her mother.
Eventually, Mrs. Sydnor gave in.
Desire’s father, George, asked her, “Why can’t you just play soccer?”
But he got used to the idea and drove Desire to get her number and last name printed on her jersey.
While her fellow teammates quickly adjusted to having a girl on the team, that wasn’t always the case for certain players from opposing teams that Desire encountered during games.
“Some guys would be like, ‘That’s a girl. I’m not going to touch her,’” she said.
Others would have the opposite reaction and would try to tackle her more than her teammates, she said.
LIMITED PLAYING TIME
Though Desire worked hard in practice, she spent most game time on the bench.
“They definitely didn’t use me to my full potential,” she said.
Her lack of time on the field often frustrated her, but it never held her back. She missed only one practice in her six seasons on the football team.
Her sophomore year, she even hid a sprained wrist so she wouldn’t be banned from practicing with the team, according to doctor’s orders, she said.
Desire played offensive guard and defensive tackle.
“In my position(s), I’m smaller than the rest of the people,” she said.
“(But) there’s kids I can manhandle, and they’re going in the game before me.”
Desire was required to undergo a physical each year before she could sign up to play football.
It was “to see if I was equal to the guys. I actually don’t think I had to pass it, but I did.”
The test is similar to the one student athletes must take if they want to play a sport at a higher level than their grade traditionally allows, she said.
Desire, now a senior, played the last game of her school football career not long ago.
About a week before that, for her last home game, her friends made a big poster with the words “We <3 #63” and her name.
They always went to her games and enthusiastically cheered for her, she said. Her sister, Brenna, could often be seen yelling to her coaches from the sidelines, telling them to put her in the game, Desire said.
Desire’s friends would boast about her membership on the team, too.
“They loved to brag about the fact that I’m on the football team,” she said.
It wasn’t just the rush of adrenaline she got during the game that captured her interest, Desire said.
The sense of family she got from being part of a team enhanced the experience for her, she said. The Beekmantown varsity football team often held team dinners to encourage unity, and Desire made friends with her fellow players.
And even though her football days are behind her, she hopes to continue playing a similar sport in college: rugby.
Desire plans to major in social work and psychology at either Siena College, where she was recently accepted, or at St. Lawrence University or SUNY Plattsburgh.