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Kicking the Trend

West Springfield’s Alyssa Calderwood has survived and thrived on gridiron.

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Alyssa Calderwood joined West Springfield’s football team prior to her senior year. After not acting on a desire to play as a freshman, Calderwood, a kicker, approached coach Bill Renner with the idea in June.

In the 1991 comedy “Necessary Roughness,” actress Kathy Ireland portrays a female kicker for the Texas State Fightin’ Armadillo football team named Lucy Draper. West Springfield’s Alyssa Calderwood has never seen the movie.

She doesn’t have to.

Calderwood is living it.

After suppressing the desire to play football prior to her freshman year, Calderwood, now a senior, approached Spartans coach Bill Renner with the idea this past June.

Renner has handled this situation before. Meggie Godish kicked for the Spartans from 1998-2001.

“I don’t like chocolate. I don’t like to shop. But I love being with the team,” Calderwood said. “It’s probably the most fun I’ve had with any activity.”

“We were a little bit worried, but she’s done a great job and she’s really impressed us with her ability,” said Alyssa’s father Todd Calderwood, adding that his wife Mary kicked for her junior high football team. “It’s really different seeing her in pads and with that ponytail next to all those big guys. But we’re very proud.”

<b>ALYSSA CALDERWOOD</b> began her career as a kicker only weeks after that meeting, enlisting the help of former Spartan and close friend Tyler Bitancurt, who earned a Division I-A scholarship to West Virginia after kicking for Renner last fall. She picked up some basic pointers from Bitancurt and began working with the team’s kicking coach, Paul Woodside.

Woodside noticed something that the Spartan’s current kicker shares with Godish. Neither is that tall. Despite the fact that drilling 65-yard kicks may not be Alyssa Calderwood’s specialty, her ability to consistently kick the ball straight has been impressive.

Her coachability, work ethic and desire to compete have also impressed Woodside.

“From the summer months, it was something where she wanted to belong … now she knows she belongs,” Woodside said. “Yes, she is a female, but the stereotypical ‘I don’t want to break my nails’ doesn’t apply here.”

“She’s a fine young lady,” said Renner, who punted for Virginia Tech and the Green Bay Packers. “I think it’s been a positive experience for her. I think it’s been a positive experience for us. And, from my experience, we know how to have a female on our team and it works just fine for us.”

Things haven’t always worked so perfectly. Alyssa Calderwood recalls the initial teasing and jokes that were made but doesn’t hold any grudges. The insults were only one more barrier that she broke through and now considers the other players “more like big brothers.”

<b>OFF THE FIELD</b>, Alyssa Calderwood’s locker has taken its fair share of abuse. Every week, the West Springfield cheerleaders decorate players’ lockers, Alyssa Calderwood’s included. Twice this season, her locker, which becomes part of the visiting team’s dressing room on Friday nights, has been vandalized.

“It’s discouraging because I was planning on framing those decorations to keep for a long time,” Alyssa Calderwood said. “It’s really pretty and they do a really good job on my locker, but teams go in there and rip stuff off my locker.”

Still, Alyssa Calderwood has memorable times, too. On Aug. 21, West Springfield scrimmaged Oakton at home, pitting two preseason favorites against one another.

Late in the game, Alyssa Calderwood got into the action. After a West Springfield touchdown, Renner sent her — ponytail bouncing — into the game to kick the extra point.

“It was so much fun,” Alyssa Calderwood said. “I almost got hit. It was definitely a rush.”

For the future, Alyssa Calderwood would like to spend a year at Northern Virginia Community College and then possibly transfer to Kansas State. For her college essay, she wrote about the initial decision not to join the team, the process that evolved over the next three years and how that has affected her today.

Alyssa Calderwood carries an eclectic set of interests that include a moonlighting gig as a professional video gamer, working on a 1969 Mustang with her dad and listening to bands like ZZ Top and Journey.

Still, Alyssa Calderwood has one interest that she has yet to run down. Besides her extra point during the Oakton scrimmage, she hasn’t appeared in a varsity game. When asked, she couldn’t deny that it’s something she’d love to accomplish.

“It wouldn’t matter to me, as long as I could [make a kick] before the season ends in a varsity game.”