Cleat Geeks

Women of Sports: Laura Tyler

You might recognize Laura Tyler from Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd. Laura is a trailblazer, who graduated in 2015 from Castle High School in Kaneohe, Hawaii. She was the first female to make the varsity football team, becoming the team’s starting kicker her senior year.

Along with football, Laura also participated in soccer, track, and paddling. Not only was she heavily involved in Castle’s athletic programs, she was also a member of the National Honor Society, volunteered at food pantries, medical supply warehouses, preschools, and environmental cleanups during missions to the Neighbor Islands and the Mainland.

Laura is currently a student at Purdue University’s School of Nursing, aspiring to be a nurse anesthetist and rowing for the Crew Team. I caught up with Laura this past weekend, where she took time out of her busy schedule to answer some of the following questions about her High School football career and future plans:

Q: At Castle High School you participated in soccer, track, and paddling for the Knights. What inspired you to try out for football your junior year?
A: I decided to try out for kicker when I was a part of my school’s pep band as a sophomore. I saw that they were struggling to find a replacement for their first string kicker after he suffered a back injury, so I figured I could give it a shot since I had played soccer for 11 years prior.

Q: In 2013, you made the team as a second string kicker. You had limited playing time and only made two PATs during the season. Afterwards, you opted to forego soccer in the spring to focus on football, getting your legs stronger and improving your accuracy. What motivated you to continue pursuing a path in football?
A: I knew that our first string kicker my junior year would be graduating that spring, which motivated me to work hard and lock in the starting position as a senior. My family and friends also encouraged me to keep practicing, and it definitely helped me go into the following season with confidence.

Q: In 2014, your dedication and determination paid off. You ascended to the starting kicker position and your coaches didn’t hesitate to put you in the game. Your team picked up its second victory of the season with a 38-6 win over McKinley High School. During this game, you were perfect on extra point attempts (5/5) and even converted a 28-yard field goal. You had a 41-yard field goal try that was blocked, but you made up for that with an incredible, textbook tackle. What went through your mind when the kick was blocked? Did you train in practice for these situations?
A: I remember being angry that the kick was blocked. If I had made it, I would have been able to hold the Hawaii state record of farthest kick in a football game by a female. However, I didn’t have much time to think about that when I realized that an opposing player had recovered the live ball and was starting to make a beeline down the sideline. I really don’t know how his blockers missed me, but I knew that I was the last person left to prevent a touchdown, so I had to go after him. Prior to this game, I had practiced hitting drills with the Junior Varsity team twice. I think that no one (including myself) expected me to have to make a tackle, but I guess you really never know!

Q: Not only gaining the respect of Head Coach Nelson Maeda, your outstanding work ethic also won the respect of your High School teammates. What do you tell girls who ask you for advice when it comes to playing football?
A: I’ve only had a couple girls express their interest in playing football to me, but I told them the same thing each time. You can’t expect to be treated any differently than the guys. You’re going to be on a predominantly male team, but if you see yourself as a novelty, the whole idea of “team” is gone. If the coach ever says that you can sit out during runs or consequences, do them anyway. It shows that you’re equal and coaches love a dedicated player. Hearing girls say that they want to play football is awesome. Anything is possible if you work hard and keep your goals in sight.

Q: As a senior, you educated other students on proper concussion recovery and treatment to help them make sound decisions on their health after a concussion. How do you feel youth athletic programs and higher level leagues, like the NFL, are handling concussion protocol? What do you suggest athletes do to becoming more aware of the repercussions and ways to avoid lifelong problems?
A: I believe that ALL football leagues need to educate players and parents on the risk of concussions and the lifelong effects they have on the brain. Any sport presents the risk of head injury, but football is by far one of the riskier ones. My High School did a great job on concussion treatment, awareness, and prevention. We did baseline tests at the start of each season, and our athletic trainers did a great job educating parents, faculty, and athletes on the risks of concussions. All you can do to understand and avoid the repercussions or lifelong problems associated with brain injuries is to do your research and practice preventative care at all times on the field. One in three NFL players will experience Dementia or other serious neurological issues by the age of 60. This is something that needs to change.

Q: What’s your kicking range?
A: As a junior, my range was around 35 yards, but during my senior year I got up to 45 yards.

Q: Have you ever had to deal with anything a male football player has never had to deal with?
A: I definitely got a lot of strange looks from the other teams’ players and fans during games. Not many guys have a long French braid coming out of the back of their helmet! I was lucky to have nearly everyone’s support. I was always treated as an equal, but I do know that other girls have dealt with very different.

Q: Who is your role model?
A: My sister Sarah has always been my role model. She is a third year Chemistry Major and runs on the track and cross-country teams here at Purdue. She pushes me to do my best in academics and athletics.

Q: Describe a typical practice.
A: I would make it to practice at about 3:40 p.m. after changing in the girls’ volleyball locker room. After meeting with the coaches, I would usually spend an hour or two doing accuracy or distance drills after stretching. Some days we would practice special teams and I could practice my timing with the holder and snapper. Near the end of practice, we would do our runs, which usually consisted of timed 240’s or 110’s. By the time I got home every night it would be about 8 p.m.

Q: How did you train in the off-season? Do you currently still train?
A: In the off season I would do a lot of running, squatting, and power cleans at the gym. I know that putting in extra time with the weights helped me increase my yardage as a senior. I am currently on the Purdue crew team. Rowing is lots of fun for me since I paddled in High School in Hawaii. Our training is beyond what I’ve ever done in any sport, and I’m still surprised at the level of intensity we train at every day. It’s an amazing workout and I enjoy my teammates and coaches.

Q: What is your favorite football moment so far?
A: The moment I made the tackle was my favorite moment by far. I can still remember every second of that play.

Q: Do you have a pregame ritual?
A: I would listen to music, stretch, and lay down on the locker room benches before the game. I didn’t really have any weird rituals before the game, I would just try to relax as much as possible.

Q: Any superstitions?
A: After I took my steps to prepare for a kick I would always wiggle my back left foot before the ball was snapped. I have no idea why I would do this, but I felt like it helped me out.

Q: What is playing on your headphones?
A: Anything but country and heavy metal!

Q: Who gets the most credit for where you are today in life?
A: My parents deserve all the credit. They have supported me in everything I have ever expressed interest in. They made it to every single game or meet I have ever participated in. I couldn’t ask for a better pair of parents.

Q: What are your favorite highlights of your High School football career?
A: Making the team as a junior and scoring my first point were some moments I will never forget. It’s a great feeling to know that what you worked for paid off.

Q: What are your College and future plans? Academically? Athletically? Personally?
A: I hope to complete nursing school in 2019 and enroll in a master’s program somewhere warmer than Indiana. As for rowing, I hope to perform well in SIRAs and Dad Vails this spring. School and crew are my main two focuses at the moment!

Q: Do you have a favorite quote?
A: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” – Marianne Williamson

Follow Laura on Instagram.

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