Tackling the norm

Budnick handles challenge of being only female on team


Daniel Carrillo

Senior Mckenna Budnick (#88) stands on the sideline and watches her team play. Budnick has been on the football team since sophomore year.

Molly Brim and Daniel Carrillo

Senior McKenna Budnick began forming a love for football at a young age.

“My cousin was a long snapper for Ole Miss and that’s the position I play, so I have always been interested in it. We all sit around watching his college games and that made it even better for me,” she said.

Budnick started looking for chances to play football in middle school.

“I saw that we had a Junior Lancers team and the Junior Mustangs when I was in middle school. I really didn’t know if I could play or not since I didn’t see any girls playing,” Budnick said.

But she didn’t let that stop her.

When she got to high school, she talked to Head Coach Boyd Manne about playing. That was all it took.

Budnick joined the team her sophomore year.

“We don’t do tryouts or anything. I believe McKenna mentioned something in the spring, and then she came to practice and she’s been here ever since,” Manne said.

Budnick spent the summer preparing to be a long snapper.

“I worked all summer long with Coach [Matt] Swoboda who’s in charge of long snapping, and I got to know our two kickers [seniors Brayden Kladney and Jake Ference] and we all improved together,” Budnick said. “Put in simple terms, a long snapper is the person who gets the ball to the kicker whether that’s for a PAT [point after touchdown] field goal or for a punt on the field.”

Since football is a male-dominated sport, Budnick knew she would face challenges.

“It’s really interesting to say the least. Everyone asks me questions like how the locker room situation works,” she said.

Manne has had to make certain accommodations having a female player on team.

“When we go to an away game, we just need to make sure that she has a place to change and use the restroom. When everybody’s dressed and ready to go, she’ll come into the locker room and we’ll do our pre-game meeting and then at halftime she comes into the locker room as well,” Manne said.

Rather than having team captains, the football team has a Leadership Council that fulfills the roles of a traditional team captain, making the decisions as a group. Senior Logan Minton is one of the Leadership Council members. He said some aspects of the team environment change when Budnick is around.

“We have to act different in the locker room and around practice,” Minton said.

As the only female team member, Budnick said she has struggled with other people’s perceptions.

“A lot of what I struggle with is what people think of me. I may act all proud and tough to all the people that actually know me. But, what some people say gets to me,” Budnick said.

She said she has learned to just deal with any negativity.

“There are certain things [I] can choose to be mad about and let it get under my skin, or I can say they are jealous, or upset or feel threatened by [me],” she said.

Also as a female breaking the traditional team makeup, Budnick said she has felt like she had to work especially hard to prove herself.

She also said the social component of team membership has been more challenging and said she has sometimes felt isolated and doesn’t think all the team members have really accepted her.

“They are all interacting with each other and giving each other high fives and I’m just there awkwardly standing in the corner. I really don’t get included in things. They’ll hang out and go to dinner,” Budnick said.

However, Minton said he thinks the group has been welcoming and that they don’t treat her differently.

“She gets treated the same by most players and coaches. It’s been a weird adjustment, but I think we all respect each other equally,” Minton said.

Manne said he has been impressed by Budnick’s dedication.

“She’s done great. I’m really proud of her and proud of our team,“ he said.

Manne also said he hopes Budnick has enjoyed being a part of the football family.

“Hopefully it’s been a great experience for her. It’s been a great experience for our team this year with the season that we’re having,” Manne said. “I’m glad she’s been able to be a part of that.”