When Murfreesboro Parks and Rec.'s Murfreesboro Youth Football League began practice for it's 2014 season, nine-year old Ni'kiah Chesterfield, one of two girls in the MYFL, said she just wanted to be half as good as the boys in her division. As the season closed Saturday with the leagues bowl games, Chesterfield felt she had accomplished her preseason goal and more.
"I think that I improved each week to where I got to where I wanted to be plus some," said Chesterfield who played for the Vikings in the Junior division of the league. "I know that I wanted to be better for myself but I wanted to get good enough to help the team also. I know I need to improve more but I will work at it until I do."
Chesterfield, a student at Bradley Academy, comes from a football family. An older brother played football at Riverdale High School and her younger brother plays for the Ravens in the MYFL's Minor division.
"A lot of people just don't think a girl can play football but I knew that I could. There is another girl playing out here and if she could I thought I could too," said Chesterfield.
Chesterfield played Flag football in the spring for a YMCA team before taking to the field in a tackle division.
"I was all for her playing football," said Darcie Chesterfield, Ni'kiah's mother. "But I also wanted her to find out if she really knew what she was getting herself into. She was a cheerleader on her bothers team last year but she said it was not enough action for her.
"So we got her into a flag football league earlier this year so she could get the concept of what football was all about," added Daicie. "We have heard both ends of people saying that she can't do it but she really proved them wrong. She was a little concerned about getting hit hard in a tackle but once she did get hit she was good with it and has been fine ever since. She loves it."
Ni'kiah played multiple positions for the Vikings this year from quarterback to wide receiver to linebacker.
"Boys think she is just a girl so she will be easy to tackle, or block or she can't run the ball because she is slow but I wanted to prove them wrong and I think I did." said Ni'kiah. "And even though we didn't have a real good season it didn't discourage me and I will be back next year. I hope other girls will come out and play and not use the excuse that you can not play football because you are a girl."
Kenneth Clark was Ni'kiah's coach and has been in the league for over 30-years.
"This was my first time coaching a girl and I couldn't be more proud to have her on this team", said Clark. "She worked hard each and every practice to improve and played hard in each and every game. She is one of the most coachable players I have ever had. She is a leader and a quality person."
Abigail Blythe played in the senior division of the MYFL, she was chosen captain of her team, the Titans, for the 2014 season. She was also a starter on both offense and defense.
"I have really enjoyed this season because we won more games and I played better," said Blythe who added it was an honor to be chosen captain by her team mates. "I learned a lot last year and work hard at improving my play at linebacker and running back but there is always room to improvement."
This season was the last for Blythe in the MYFL. And after two years in the program she is keeping her options open about continuing her dream as a football player when she attends Siegel High School next year.
My family was concerned about me playing football in the beginning," said Blythe. "But I had faith in myself and I ask them to have faith in me and it all work out just fine. I'm not going to make a decision about next year yet but we have talk to the freshman coach at Siegel so I am keeping my options open about my future in football."
Blythe, who currently attends Siegel Middle School had some advice for Ni'kiah Chesterfield and other girls.
"Whatever it is you what to do, follow that dream," said Blythe. "Just follow your dream and you will succeed no matter what it is."