Tackling Gender Roles in Football

Paige Counts defies gender norms as a member of the Madison football team.


Photo Courtesy of Paige Counts

Paige Counts focuses on the field while surrounded by her teammates.

Mia Pisani, Lifestyle Editor

On the freshman football team of 60 people, 59 are boys. Paige Counts (’23) is the only girl in the Madison football program, and while most high school female football players are kickers, Counts is a defensive tackle. 

Along with lacrosse and other sports, Counts has been playing football for years. She played Vienna Youth Inc. football from fourth to seventh grade, took a year off in eighth grade, and then decided to continue her love for football in high school. 

Paige Counts has grown up surrounded by football. Casey and Wiley Counts, her older brothers, were teammates at Madison, and Casey Counts is currently a defensive end at Salisbury University. In addition, her father, Justin Counts, is a varsity football coach at Madison. 

“I wasn’t planning on playing this year,” Counts said. “It took a lot of motivation from my brothers and my dad.” 

Counts’ first year of football at Madison has gone well. Even though she is the only girl in the football program, Counts does not feel like she is treated differently. 

“It was weirder at first because it was just an elephant in the room,” Counts said. 

Although she feels equally respected, there are some differences between Counts and her teammates.

“I had my own locker room, and I usually wouldn’t go into the boys locker room, so they would have their pre game meetings in there, and I would just sit in the hall,” Counts said. “The things I couldn’t do didn’t affect me negatively.” 

From opposing teams, Counts faced stares and a bit of confusion when she stepped on the field. For her, the main issue she faced when playing was the other team pulling the braids that stuck out of her helmet. 

“I made a whole new group of friends through football,” Counts said. “I’ve made so many great friendships from it.”