In the NFL’s 102 year history, the league has become a defining part of American culture. The NFL is the most viewed sport/league in the USA. Just this year, the Super Bowl had 112.28 million viewers. But even though the NFL has amassed this incredible fanbase, the league still has flaws. Football, like many sports, is a male-dominated game. And although it is estimated that about 40% of the NFL’s casual fans are female, the players in the NFL are exclusively male. This, however, has not stopped Cate Cardew and other RHS girls from achieving their football dreams.
This past fall, Cate Cardew decided to bring female flag football to Ridgewood. After seeing games played by other New Jersey schools in the Spring of 2021 and then a post at the beginning of this school year by Ramapo, Cate reached out to a Ramapo player to find out how their team was formed. Interestingly enough, Cate learned that the New York Jets were involved. She did research online and discovered that the Jets and Nike had launched a league in Northern New Jersey in 2021 and were in the process of expanding the league to include 32 new teams. Cate then contacted the Jets, asking if RHS could be included, and was approved immediately. Cate said she was “insanely shocked” that the Jets even responded at all and more so that she got a response within the same day. The process went very quickly. The Jets contacted Mr. Cook, RHS’s Athletic Director, and the school was chosen to be one of the 50 teams in New Jersey and Long Island leagues.
As sponsors, the Jets and Nike provided RHS with both white and maroon uniforms, equipment, referee fees, and coaching fees. In addition, the Jets and Nike are taking this opportunity to provide greater exposure to young female athletes. For Cate, it’s been a tremendous learning experience. In February, she represented RHS at an event at the MetLife Stadium that brought together players from the participating teams. The event, which sought to provide the players with insight into potential professions in sports, featured a panel of women working in different aspects of sports, including female representatives from the NFL, ESPN, and others organizations. The Jets and Nike plan to sponsor another clinic later this Spring.
Being a trailblazer in sports is not new for Cardew women. Cate’s mom was captain of the first RHS women’s soccer team. Cate has been inspired by her other experiences in RHS athletics. “I learned a lot from being one of the captains on the soccer team, so I hope to continue to learn more and help lead the team to the first-ever team to a championship!”
In addition to Cate and the other players, the game is also a first for Coach McDermott. “This is a 100% new experience for me. This is actually my first time ever coaching a female sport. There’s a lot of differences but there is also a lot of similarities, and the girls just do a great job of being coachable.” While McDermott wants to focus on having fun and learning the sport, he admitted that the girls have high expectations. “They’re very competitive, which is awesome. The girls want to go to MetLife and they want to win. It’s just fun teaching them a sport that they have never played before …”
The Ridgewood Girls Football team will play in one of the two 8-team divisions of the Super Football Conference and will compete with teams from Ramapo, Passaic Tech, Morristown, and other New Jersey towns. The team will have seven regular-season games starting in March. The top teams from the SFC will compete for a spot in the league finals at the MetLife Stadium.
June marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in educational programs and activities that receive federal funding. This law has been one of the main factors in paving the way for women’s sports in public schools. It is only fitting that RHS girls are continuing in this tradition by opening the football field to female players, starting this year. Let’s all be a part of this proud history: support the Ridgewood Girls Football team!
Go Maroons – making history in Ridgewood!
Elisha de Silva
Graphic: Grace Gluckow