Kathryn Serra, 8, puts on her helmet and pads then takes the football field on Saturdays.
Unlike most girls her age, Kathryn’s favorite thing to do is get on the gridiron and block opponents aimed at her quarterback.
“My favorite thing about football is playing in the games,” Kathryn said. “That’s when I actually get to play hard.”
Kathryn, a third grader at Key Biscayne K-8 Center who hopes to be a doctor for a professional football team, is the only girl in the Miami Xtreme Youth Football League, a football league for ages 5-14. This is her second year in the league and the first in the 90-pound level.
Her mother, Laura George, a speech pathologist, said being the only girl in a football league should help make her daughter a stronger person.
“I think it’s fantastic,” George said. “It gives her a lot of confidence that’s going to help her with whatever she chooses to do with her life. She’s not afraid of anything.’’
Kathryn’s father, David Serra, a nurse, talked about the decision to allow her to play the demanding sport.
“At the beginning we were a little skeptical because it is a very physical sport and we didn’t want her to get hurt,” Serra said. “After we talked to the coaches, we realized that the 75-pound level isn’t too dangerous and with the equipment she’ll have, she should be fine.”
Kathryn’s desire to play football came from watching her brother, Chuli, 7, play in the same league two years ago.
“She would come to his practices and watch them do their conditioning,” George said. “She was inspired by it and has a strong bond with her brother, so she wanted to go out there and play herself.”
Kathryn plays on the offensive line for the Key Biscayne Key Rats, who take on the Kendall Hammocks Warriors on Saturday at Devonaire Park in Kendall.
She is familiar with the football language and does not mind switching positions when her coaches ask her to.
“I play different positions on defense and my favorite is middle linebacker,” Kathryn said. “The first time I played, I burst into the gaps and tackled the running back.”
Kathryn’s dedication to the game makes her easy to coach.
Felipe DeVarona, the league’s athletic director and Kathryn’s former coach, praised her dedication and competitiveness.
“I don’t think she was just tough for being the only girl,” DeVarona said. “She was simply one of the toughest players period.”
The current coach of the team, Tony Goudie, talked about Kathryn’s character and work ethic.
“She’s a great teammate who never complains. I don’t think she’s missed a practice,” Goudie said. “You can always count on her being there and always going full speed, and as a coach, it’s special to see kids who are that selfless and put the team’s needs in front of their own.”
Along with practicing three times a week with her team, Kathryn does boot camp-style workouts with her father on the weekends.
“I think this will prepare her for later on in life,” her dad said. “Football is a sport in which you learn how to be competitive, be strong and be a leader, and life is all about that.”