Women’s National Tackle Football Team Features Albany Kicker

Albany’s Alaina Lange will fight for a gold medal as a kicker/kicker for the United States Women’s National Soccer Team in Finland on Sunday.

The gold medal would be the fourth in a row for the United States, who face Great Britain at 12:10 p.m. in the International Federation of American Football World Championship.

Lange, who coaches football and teaches eighth grade at Lansingburgh High School, is in his fifth year playing football, but this is his first experience with the national team.

Support from her students and friends back home helps her stay motivated.

“It kind of helps us keep moving forward and keeping that gold medal goal in mind knowing that it’s not just for us, but it’s for everyone who supports us and who all support the United States,” Lange said.

Lange’s kick was key to the team’s 28-10 semi-final win over Finland, in which the Americans scored 21 points answered in the final 24 minutes. The team started the World Championship with a 63-0 win over Germany.

Sweden, Australia, Canada and Mexico also participated this year.

When: 12:10 p.m. Sunday

Where: Vantaa, Finland

Flow: olympics.com

“We knew going into this year that the battle was going to be much closer until the gold medal game,” Lange said. “Finland are a great game, but they are also a bit scary.”

The improvement in competition is due, Lange said, to the growth of the sport around the world.

“It’s something that’s been a long time coming where we’re now at an international place where there’s a men’s football league and a women’s football league, and…the women’s football league is very quickly becoming a name around the world,” Lange said.

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Although Lange has only been playing the sport for a short time, she has experienced “astronomical” growth.

Data collected by the National Federation of High Schools and compiled by the NFL’s football operations branch showed that girls’ participation in tackle football increased in 47 states between 2008 and 2018.

In New York, less than 0.1% of high school soccer players were girls in 2008. In 2018, that figure rose to 0.4%.

“To see the number of young women getting into the sport who have been athletes their whole lives and who, like me, just didn’t know football existed for women outside of pick-up games and fun or of the flag, but also women who played football with the boys, like with their high school teams, and want to continue that during their college years, even when they go out to play,” Lange said.

Lange first heard of women’s soccer as a soccer coach at Schalmont, when the parents of two soccer players asked her to try out for their team, the New York Knockout, in exchange for persuading their daughters to play the role of goalkeeper for her.

“I showed up at tryouts and fell in love with it and never looked back,” Lange said.

When she started, one of the parents predicted that she would eventually make the national team.

“I didn’t really know what he was talking about when he said that. I had never really heard of the women’s national team before,” Lange said.

That’s partly because the contest was held sporadically, in 2010, 2013, and 2017. (The United States won all three years.)

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So when Lange found out that tryouts were taking place in Florida, she and a few other teammates signed up. They competed with 250 other hopefuls to form a roster of 45. After the tryouts, there were months of waiting during which Lange’s students and football players harassed her for news.

“Once you got that call, it was a huge sigh of relief and excitement and being ready to practice,” Lange said.

Part of the training camp included a soccer camp for girls interested in the sport, held at the Cleveland Browns facilities.

“There were 50 to 100 young girls, ages 8 to 18, who came to learn from us and play football and have fun and really learn the basics of the game with us,” Lange said.

Although she plays football because she loves it – “what’s not to love?” — Lange also likes to be a model.

“I love coaching these girls and I love being able to lead by example with these girls and being able to make them do like I do, not just do what I say,” she said.

Although she occasionally receives questions from people who are surprised by the existence of organized women’s football, the reactions when she talks about what she does are generally positive.

“It’s almost like people think it’s time,” Lange said.

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