Avery Arnett is an 11-year-old offensive and defensive lineman. The sixth grader is in her second year of tackle football in Oklahoma’s Moore Youth Football Association. She is a highly versatile lineman, earning time at OT, OG, TE, DT, NG and DE. Recently, plays were drawn up for Avery to run the ball. She made the most of her time, scoring touchdowns on two of three carries, the third only a yard short.
Made for the Field
Avery’s athletic career began with opportunities to try many different sports. She was involved in soccer starting out, then softball, baseball, gymnastics, tumbling and dance. Whatever sport was in season, Avery wanted to be involved.
Football is in Avery’s blood. Her father was a former high school player, however her initial exposure to football in her household was to a small extent. The Arnett family played in the yard at Thanksgiving and generally only watched plays when skimming channels. Football was spoken of when Mr. Arnett told his “war stories” from his career, but not often beyond that.
An interest in football was sparked that never went away, when Avery was six-years-old. Her cousin started playing football, and one day in the yard, the kids were rotating through trying on the shoulder pads and helmet. Avery put on his shoulder pads and helmet to do football drills in the yard with the group.
Avery always remembered that feeling of being in football gear. Years after that night at family dinner, Avery told her father that she wanted to play football. Mr. Arnett explained his response, “I let some time go by, thinking this was a fad. Avery sometimes is one way this week and something totally different the next week. She was pretty set on going through with it. I had a sit down with her to discuss what to expect and what she could encounter. I asked again if this is something she wanted to do. Her response never faulted. So I said we will start looking for a team.”
Her football career was meant to be. After an unplanned connection at a car wash fundraiser outside of a Burger King, Avery got connected with the coach of her first tackle football team. The timing was perfect. Avery started off on a trial period before commiting by going to a few practices. Avery shared, “Dad had me try out to see if I was going to like it and he told them to put me on my butt. And they did. I got right back up and got what they called a pancake. I found I really like pancakes. They are fun to make. I was hooked.” Avery started officially playing in 9U.
Avery is balling with the best. Her team, the Moore Venom, is one of the top 10U teams in the State of Oklahoma. Four year returning league champions, and on the hunt for a fifth title, the Venom have a long history of being a top contending team. Her first season playing was the year the team was getting national exposure. They were in the top ten of the Big South Conference and had the opportunity to play against powerhouses in youth football including the Minnesota Jays, Wichita Trojans, Arkansas Spartans, Dallas Elite Golden Bears, DFW Crimson Tide and Wolfpack Elite.
She is working her way to the top of her game. Towards the end of her first year, Avery tried out for the All-Oklahoma Team and would have been selected for her age group aside from an age cutoff discrepancy. “She just wanted to go out and prove it to the boys that girls got it too. For her to make it as far into the tryouts against what the competition was, Avery certainly proved what she wanted to prove.”
“When she gets more figured out, she is really going to be a weapon. Avery is in the 99th percentile. She is really good size for her age and holds her own against large opponents. She is 5’3” and 145lbs with the strength of an ox, agility of a fox and as fast as her secondary teammates. When she really wants to go, she is very easily one of the top five fastest players on her team.” Avery plays on the line primarily as a tackle, guard and nose guard. She is seeing a few plays at tight end.
“One of my greatest moments was when they handed me the ball for the first time and I ran it for a 25 yard touchdown. That doesn't happen for a linewomen or linemen all too often, but I really liked it.” On this unplanned play, the Venom’s quarterback told Avery “I'm going to turn and hand you the ball. You run that way. Your brothers got your back.” She capitalized on her opportunity by carrying the ball into the endzone.
See It to Be It
“Around the Lady Force, she becomes different.” Avery has developed a support system with local women’s tackle football players after connecting with Oklahoma’s women’s tackle football team, the WFA’s Lady Force. After the team found out about Avery playing, they started to support her at games and invited her to team workouts. This has been an influential relationship for Avery in the start of her football career. Her father shared that the team has elevated her confidence and consistency, “It couldn’t have been at a better time. They became involved with her at a time she needed the influence the most.” Avery’s favorite women’s tackle football team is the Oklahoma City Lady Force because they support her in games and scrimmages and open their practices to her. After being introduced to Avery and her story, the WNFC has Got Her Back as well!
Her favorite men’s football team is the Seattle Seahawks, because of Russell Wilson and Geno Smith. Her other favorite squad is the Dallas Cowboys because they are close enough that her family will someday be able to watch a game in person.
The support system is strong for Avery. “The ladies of the Lady Force are always encouraging me. My dad and family help me grow. My coaches believe in me even when I don't myself.”
“One Step at a Time”
“I always paint my nails before every game and I love it when they find out they got pancaked by a girl. I just love playing football. I love the pregame excitement and energy I get before a game, especially a big game. My team has had the privilege of being a part of competing nationally. I love to travel to different states to play. I also love playing different positions and the brother/sisterhood we have developed. I absolutely love finding other girls who play and going out to support them.”
Overcoming adversity one step at a time, she continues to build her mental toughness in the game and focus on positives. “Just got to keep grinding and believe that I can do it.” She enjoys being in the gym and working on footwork drills. “Nothing trains hand speed quite like some TikTok dances though.” Avery plans to spend her offseason training and wrestling or playing basketball.
Avery believes in a future where there is more worldwide acceptance for female tackle football players and that more girls will play consistently. Her goal is to be the first or one of the first females to earn a tackle football college scholarship and make it to the NFL. She encourages other girls to take the field as well.
“Football is a sport you can put your emotions into and turn negative energy into positive. You'll have brothers who got your back and you will learn teamwork unlike in any other sport. It's tough but you'll find yourself loving it. Attitude determines preparation. Preparation determines performance. Performance determines success.”
Avery's Day 1 in pads
“The very same pads she put on in the front yard many years ago are the very same pads she wears today. They are getting old and worn out but I think there is another level of pride in those shoulder pads.” Avery will continue to grow and dominate on the field as she takes pride in being the best at her craft and succeeding with her teammates. Her career of pancake blocks with painted nails is just beginning.