Boy, girl cross gender lines on junior high cheerleading, football teams

Underneath one of the helmets, a 12-year-old girl named Avery Fleshner is about to kick the field goal for the Tiger football team, and along other fields, Denari Turner is backspotting stunts at the eighth grade football games.

Fleshner is a seventh grade girl going out for football this year at Peet Junior High. Fleshner is new to the sport and said that she’s always wanted to play. The first time she knew she wanted to play was in fifth grade.

“I remember in fifth grade, the seventh graders came to the elementary to talk about junior high. Someone asked about football, and I said I’m going to be on that team, and everyone doubted me,” Fleshner said.

She has proven them wrong by being the A and B team kicker.

Turner is also a new edition to the PJH cheer team.

“I always thought it was cool, and my friends said I should try,” he said.

Turner has also had some discrimination for being a male cheerleader. People have said things like, ”You should just quit,” and, “That’s too girly,” but this hasn’t stopped him, though he still keeps putting in the work during practice.

“Some people say they think it’s cool that I’m doing cheer. They have even told people to stop the hate on me,” Turner said.

The football team has also made Fleshner feel very welcome. “The first day of practice some of the players were hesitant and questioning their approval of me,” she said. Although the team has been understanding, others around the school haven’t been so inviting. Fleshner said people are saying things like, “Oh, she’s just doing it for attention,” and spreading rumors about her. Some other struggles Fleshner has had are being a multi-sport athlete with trying to balance a busy schedule full of soccer practices, football practices and school work.

The season has been going well for the Tigers who have already tied one game with Holmes for A team and B team winning 40-0.

Although some teams may take different participants of different genders as a burden, these teams are embracing Fleshner and Turner. Fleshner said her team is “Memorable because I don’t think any team would have been as supportive and accepting.”

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