There are a lot of things that could hold Revere’s Bryanna Hendershott back from the football field, but certainly nothing holds her back when on the field.
First of all, football – while more popular with girls now – is still mostly a boy’s game, but that doesn’t seem to make a difference.
Second of all, she is deaf, and that has done nothing to stop her either. Most, in fact, don’t even know that she cannot hear until she tells them.
“I like to play defense because I like to tackle and to hit,” she said in a recent interview. “I’m very competitive. I don’t like to lose and I don’t like to miss a flag in flag football or to miss a tackle on my high school team. I’ve always got to get better.”
Hendershott, 14, played on the freshman team for Northeast Voke and was a valued member of that tackle football team.
Now, however, her latest football achievement is in the NFL’s Flag Football tournament, where she and a group of regional all stars will travel to Arizona this weekend during the NFL Pro Bowl to compete for a championship in their division, the 14U Division.
“I’m looking forward to a win and meeting NFL players and bringing home a big trophy,” she said. “The competition is going to be tough. I’m going to just make it fun for me. I’m going to have some fun and I believe we’ll win.”
The tournament during this weekend’s Pro Bowl is part of the new NFL Flag Football league that is located all over the country, including Revere. Hendershott played in the Revere league and then was chosen to play on an all-star team from leagues all over the area.
Kelly Hoar, Hendershott’s mother, said the team qualified for championship bracket in Arizona by pulling out two overtime wins on Nov. 15 in Harvard Stadium. Teams from as far away as Florida, Pennsylvania and all over New England competed in the regional tournament.
Hendershott has played two years in flag football, and had never played football, but had played soccer. She attended the McKinley School and the Susan B. Anthony School (SBA), and in that time always watched football with her uncle, Bobby Hendershott.
“I always watched football with him, and then one day I said, ‘Oh man, let me try that,’” she said. “I started with flag football and then I decided to try to play tackle football on the freshman team. So far, so good.”
So many things, however, are seemingly working against Hendershott and her desire to play football.
First of all, the fact that she cannot hear would likely make one think that it’s impossible.
However, she shrugs it off as if it’s nothing and said she has found ways to cope, as with everything – having lost her hearing in both ears suddenly at the age of 4.
“Nobody usually knows I can’t hear until I tell them,” she said. “I tell my teammates to look at me when they talk because I can’t hear. They usually don’t believe me or tell me to quit joking. Then I say, ‘No really, I can’t hear. I read lips.’ People are always shocked. I tell my coaches always look at me because I’m deaf. Most of them are shocked too because they don’t realize it until I tell them. I think its part of why I like defense. I know the other players’ movements and where they’re going to go. I can anticipate what they’ll do by looking at their faces. I can also read their lips too.”
Hendershott said that she has also learned the hand signals used by officials to signal the start and finish of a play as she cannot hear the whistle.
When it comes to being a girl, Hendershott also doesn’t seem to be bothered in the least. In fact, she said that her presence on the Voke Freshman Team has sparked interest from others.
“I was the only girl on the team and a couple of girls came up to me and wanted to know if they could play too,” she said. “I said, ‘Well, don’t ask me, ask the coach!’”
Her mother said she is glad that her daughter is playing football, as it’s given her newfound confidence.
“I can honestly say since she started this that I’ve seen such a positive change in her,” said Kelly. “The tackle football and flag football builds confidence. There has been a big change in her with regards to her confidence in all things.”