ISHPEMING, Mich. (WJMN) – From a young age, Hailey Hytinen knew suiting up for the Hematites was a goal of hers.
“When I was younger my family would go to Hematite games and I joined flag football and at halftime, we would come down and play and I just fell in love with the sport,” Hytinen said.
“I noticed it in Elementary School. She would always play jackpot on the playground with the boys,” Jennifer Hytinen-Polkki, Hailey’s mom said. “Her teacher said that she had excellent eye-hand coordination and said he said ‘She is going places!’ and I told her ‘You can play football as long as you hit 100 pounds.'”
Fast forward to 2019, Hailey’s childhood dream became a reality as she suited up in the blue and white for the first time.
“When I was the assistant coach for the junior varsity, Hailey came in as a freshman,” Ishpeming football Head Coach, Cody Kugler said. “She came to practice every day, showed up, and was ready to go, ready to improve and ready to get better. It was very crucial that year because that team did not particularly have a good season but when Hailey was put in she competed greatly and I am very happy that she continued to play football throughout her high school career.”
“I’m very proud,” Hytinen-Polkki said. “Very proud. Hailey has always been very shy so it just shocks me that she came forward and is playing on a team with all boys and male coaches. She is the only girl.”
Hailey uses football as a way to prove not only to herself but to others that you can do anything you put your mind to.
“I just kind of feel like I am doing something for girls,” Hytinen said. “I never got to see a girl on this field so if I was in the stands it would make me want to play and I hope that is what I get across when I do that. It is a very hard sport and I hope I can show other girls doing a thing, it doesn’t have to be football, it can be a job that you can do it. It doesn’t mean you can’t do it.”
“She brings diversity definitely to the team,” Kugler said. “It brings maturity to the team as well. To understand that not only can a female play this sport, but a female can catch better than you but a female can listen to the play and listen to the cover scheme and the plays and actually understand them.”
And to the girls in the stands that aspire to be like Hailey in a few years, she offers her best piece of advice…
“Start sooner!” Hytinen said. “I have always been afraid to do it and like seventh grade me I should have started then but I didn’t because I was afraid. I would say start sooner.”
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