Opinion: Sarah Fuller made history

When Vanderbilt University’s football team played against the University of Missouri last Saturday, it was a monumental day for women in sports. Sarah Fuller, the Vanderbilt women’s soccer team goalkeeper, was called in to play after members of Vanderbilt’s kicking unit were ineligible to play due to COVID-19 concerns. Hopefully, this will not be the last time we see a woman make history in a male-dominated sport.

Watching a female breaking barriers is inspiring, to say the least. Even though Fuller only kicked once, the impact was much greater than expected. Her 30-yard kickoff made her the first female to take part in a Power Five game. The sports world witnessed a historical event that young girls will look up to. In fact, Fuller may be needed again for Vanderbilt’s game against the University of Georgia this weekend.

“Play Like a Girl” is a nonprofit that encourages girls to play sports and get exposure to STEM opportunities. Fuller wore “Play Like a Girl” on the back of her helmet during her game which not only helped bring awareness to the organization but also encouraged young girls to embrace this slogan.

This changes the way this well-known slogan is interpreted. Most of us can remember a time when we were participating in a sports game in elementary school and a boy yelled, “you play like a girl.” It’s honestly so discouraging when you hear this as a girl, and it leaves you feeling uncertain about your own capabilities. This slogan is now connected with a change in history for women – a step closer to erasing the stereotypical views associated with it.

It’s no surprise that male sports are more widely watched than female sports. The differences in pay and media coverage differ greatly between them. However, Fuller’s appearance in the game represents the bright future for females in sports.

When a young girl watches a female like Fuller defy the norms, she too will want to compete in a male-dominated sport. Seeing the strong women who’ve done it before her, she knows it is possible. Many female athletes are working harder than ever before to achieve this dream.

Despite some criticism that Fuller received, for example, some criticized her kicking abilities, she also got an outpouring of encouragement from athletes like Russell Wilson, Mia Hamm and Sue Bird for her historic kick.

During an interview with CBS Sports during halftime, Fuller gave a passionate speech about her feelings towards the team’s lack of enthusiasm that changed the team’s attitudes for the better. She was not hesitant in calling out the team for their lack of support for her on the field and the lack of cheering on the sidelines. The team acknowledged their mistakes and became aware of the necessity of supporting each other to win. She did more than just play for the team – she brought attention to an important aspect of a team sport that they were missing.

Women are making great strides in the world right now. We just saw the first female vice president elected in the U.S., and now, the first woman to play in a Power Five game. If women continue to empower each other around the world, we can expect even more great accomplishments in the coming years.