Samira Conteh: The Female Falcon

Samira Conteh is proof that This Kent Girl Can. As the first woman to join the UKC American Football Falcon’s, she has proved that sports should be inclusive regardless of gender. Interviewed by Megan Warwick, here is Samira’s story, and how she had dominated her sport, empowering those around her.

“My name is Samira and I was the first woman to join the Kent Falcons American Football team at University of Kent. I’ve played sports my whole life starting off with Football when I was in primary, then I moved onto Basketball in secondary school and now I play American Football. Although I love sport, I’ve also dipped into T24 the Drama society and enjoy traveling. I’ve visited 15 states in total on my year abroad to West Virginia – only 35 more to go!

Funny story, I honestly had no intention of joining a sport at all in university. I’d never watched American football, never played – I knew nothing. I saw them at Fresher’s Fayre, where I asked if they had a women’s team. They replied with “no, we’re a mixed sport”, to which I thought “no thanks”. First term passed and I still hasn’t found a society that was for me. I was persuaded by my friend to give The Falcons a go in January at re-freshers.

There were still no women on the team.

I decided to sign up for the taster session and give it a go just to prove a point that women could play American Football. I tried to convince my friends to go with me, but no one did so eventually I bucked up the courage to step out onto the 3GX alone. I was surrounded by a large group of boys in helmets and pads, I could barely see their faces. Some people spoke to me but some barely acknowledged me. This could have been for a multitude of reasons; they were in the middle of the season, focused on training and getting reps, didn’t have time to mingle with the newbie etc. In the back of of my mind, I couldn’t help but think “maybe it’s because I’m a girl, they don’t take me seriously, they probably don’t think I’m actually going to join so what’s the point”. Yet, it was all very encouraging. I genuinely had fun at the training sessions, the guys helped me out along the way. I didn’t intend on sticking it out but I felt like I was included as part of the team.

One of the big turning points was the chat I had with one of the guys on the sideline who was injured. He took the time to actually talk to me, explain the sport and how the Falcons worked and encouraged me to stick at it and join the team.

I decided to joined the Kent Falcons.

Being the only woman in a male dominated team was weird at first but I got used to it and just saw myself as another Falcon. I was the first girl to join, voted onto committee twice and that guy I had a chat with at my first session is now one of best friends. However, it wasn’t until people started to recognize me as “the only girl on the team” did I start to feel like a token. Naturally I felt like I had a responsibility to get involved in the TKGC campaign to highlight more people like myself, to highlight all the other amazing women in sport societies and to encourage more people to join American Football. The Falcons were hugely supportive of my involvement with the campaign. This year, for the first time ever myself and committee have organised a session called, ‘This Kent Girl Can: Play American Football’ to encourage more women to try the sport.

If I empower women or not, I guess that’s for others to decide. But I feel like my hard work and commitment to the team has led to more women joining the Falcons. We had more women than ever come down to our taster sessions and try the sport, which is a huge improvement and now we have three registered women on the team. It’s it’s a victory for me and I hope I’ve lit a spark to more women joining the team and playing the sport.

Considering I wasn’t going to join permanently, I understand the premade ideas against girls in sport but I think very quickly I proved those people wrong by committing to the team, turning up to training and socials and actively being a Falcon.”