Remember the Titans?
One of the story lines in the 2000 film about high school football focuses on a little girl, daughter of a coach, who loves everything football.
A little girl and her dad, just like the movie, live in Rock Hill.
David “Bubba” Pittman is the varsity football coach at Rock Hill High. His 11-year-old daughter Sarah Beth loves everything football. She learned about the game at a young age, throwing the ball around the yard with her younger brother and cousins.
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“I saw them doing all of their football stuff and then I wanted to do it,” said Sarah Beth, an ever-present in her burgundy Bearcats jersey on Rock Hill’s sidelines most Friday nights.
This year, her parents finally agreed to let her play football after saying no last year. Sarah Beth was a smaller-than-average child who shied away from soccer balls when she was younger, said her mother, Jennifer Pittman. They were concerned about the physical contact in football and Sarah Beth having to play on a more advanced team than what she was used to playing with her brother.
It all changed when Sarah Beth wrote an essay and gave it to her mom. She got straight to the point. Her mom was crushing her dreams.
That’s when they signed her up for football camp. The essay said “that if Mom doesn’t let me play football, then I can’t play for the Bearcats,” Sarah Beth said. “Then, the Gamecocks won’t put me on their team and I won’t get drafted into the NFL.”
Don’t assign gender sports rules to this little girl.
Sarah Beth wants to be the first female player in the NFL. That’s her ultimate goal. But if she couldn’t play youth football, her dream could not happen.
“I won’t be the first girl in the NFL and I won’t make as much money,” she said, adding that her life would be “boring.”
Jennifer Pittman said the essay made the decision easy.
“When she brought it home and I read it, I felt pretty bad,” she said.
Sarah Beth is now on the Gray-Y Wildcats youth league football team as an offensive guard. She thinks it’s “awesome” that NFL stars like Jadeveon Clowney and Stephon Gilmore played Gray-Y football in Rock Hill like she does. The shy girl looks at her dad like a hero.
“I just want to encourage her,” Bubba Pittman said. “If that’s something she wants to do, I just don’t want to stand in the way.”
Bubba Pittman said Sarah Beth can hold her own. When he’s not busy coaching the Bearcats, he throws the ball around with her.
“I try to give her some pointers, but I try not to overstep the bounds too much,” he said. “I want it to be fun for her and not have dad critiquing her all the time.”
Sarah Beth gets to take to the field under the Friday night lights when her dad coaches. She runs onto the field to fetch the balls between plays with her brother and cousins. She also dances with the players, watches the plays on a big screen TV and cheers on the team.
Underneath her football jersey, she wears her cheerleading shirt.
Sometimes she will yank the ball out of her cousins’ hands on the sidelines.
“Sarah is pretty tough, she’s strong and strong willed,” Bubba Pittman said. “She’s a tough kid and she will enjoy it.”
Sarah Beth has enjoyed nearly a dozen other sports over the years. Football and basketball are her favorites, but she has been seen playing softball, swimming, gymnastics, cheerleading, soccer and dance. She would play baseball “if they would let girls play,” she said.
In several years, she may trade in her Wildcats jersey for a Bearcats jersey. Bubba Pittman said he would “absolutely” put her on the varsity team if she wants to play in high school.
Whatever her goals are, Sarah Beth’s parents are supportive.
“I think you should reach for your goals,” Bubba Pittman tells her. “We want to encourage her as much as we can and hopefully, those things will work out for her.”