Freshman Diana Reyes-Rivera conquers two sports in one season

After tryout week, freshman Diana Reyes-Rivera, right, takes a picture with her friend, freshman Kamdyn Corbin, in their uniforms. As a member of the JV cheer team, Reyes-Rivera is required to cheer at JV football games and daily cheer practice.

Katie Carita, sports editor

For many high schoolers, Friday nights are dedicated to football games. Whether they are cheering on their classmates in the student section, doing intricate flips on the sidelines or playing in the game themselves, these nights are a quintessential part of fall.

However, for freshman Diana Reyes-Rivera, this high school rite of passage is unique. This season, she is a kicker on the freshman football team and is a member of the junior varsity cheerleading squad.  

“I wanted to prove that I could make the football team,” Reyes-Rivera said. “After my friend made a joke about me going to team workouts, I felt like it was [a] challenge for me to try out. After attending one practice, I grew to love the sport.”

This season, Reyes-Rivera is the only girl on the roster for the whole football program.

“It was a little surprising to see a girl at tryouts,” freshman football player Alex Spohn said. “I’ve been playing football for six years, and [Reyes-Rivera] is the first girl I have ever seen play. It was definitely a little weird at first, but now that season’s progressed, it’s just like any other team [I’ve been on].”

There are physical risks along with any sport, but the chances of getting injured greatly increase when the athlete is competing against other players more than twice their size. Football requires an intense mix of strength and speed. A serious but common injury among players of this full contact sport is a concussion. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, football accounts for 47 percent of all reported high school concussions.

“At first, I did get nervous during practice,” Reyes-Rivera said. “But now I don’t really mind it. You learn to play the game safely.”

Unfortunately, Reyes-Rivera did receive an injury this season, but it did not happen on the football field. While practicing tumbling, she suffered from a faulty landing, resulting in a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Still, this injury did not curb her motivation, as she remains an active member of both teams.

“I think it’s really inspiring how [Reyes-Rivera] is playing on cheer and football,” sophomore and junior varsity cheerleader Amari Reid said. “It shows other girls what’s possible. She has the athleticism and determination to succeed in both.”

Though the rough and fast-paced game of football seems incompatible to the elaborate jumps and catchy anthems that cheerleaders perform, Reyes-Rivera has found a way to apply aspects of each sport to better herself in the other.

“The whole attitude required with cheerleading can be brought to football,” Reyes-Rivera said. “With cheer, it’s not just what you do with your hands or your jumps; your facial expression [also] needs to show confidence. I try to bring that same confidence onto the football field.”

Regular student athletes are required to balance the pressure of school and daily afternoon practices, but for Reyes-Rivera, the time commitment and responsibilities are doubled.

“Football practice is every day from 3-5 p.m. and cheer practice starts at 5 p.m.,” Reyes-Rivera said. “If there’s ever a conflict, both my coaches know I play two sports, so they let me figure it out.”

The transition into her freshman year, along with picking up two new sports and an injury, has been full of adversities, but Reyes-Rivera has not let this diminish her passion for athletics.

“There was a point when it was getting really hard for me,” Reyes-Rivera said. “But I got a lot of [support] from my friends. I hope [being apart of football and cheer] encourages other girls to branch out.”