From the first kickoff of the season until the last play of the year, Braidy Parkes did not leave the field.
On Sunday evening at Shuswap Minor Football’s awards ceremony, the tenacious 13-year-old was named the Junior Bantam’s most valuable player, becoming the first girl to be awarded the MVP in the association.
“She led our team this year on the stat sheet and she was a vocal leader who led by example,” said her coach Andrew Van Dokkumburg.
Parkes lined up on both sides of the ball throughout the season, playing up to five different positions in a game.
Offensively, Parkes lined up as a slot back or tail back and quite literally ran away as the team’s leading rusher. Her offensive flair was topped off as she also led the team in touchdowns.
As a linebacker, she proved to be a thorn in the side of every oppositions’ offence. The Chargers had one of the best defensive cores in the league and Parkes was at its forefront.
She led the team in tackles and interceptions. On special teams, she was the punter and holder on field goal and conversion attempts.
“I have always loved sports,” explained the latest MVP-award winner. “The more aggressive the sport is, the more fun it is. I think that’s why I love football,” said Parkes with a wry smile.
Parkes got into the male-dominated sport five years ago by chance.
While watching her brother’s first football practice, she recalls asking her mom if she could suit up and give it a try.
Though hesitant at first, her mom asked the coaches if it would be possible and, within 20 minutes, Parkes was outfitted with pants, shoulder pads and a helmet.
“I remember that day like it was yesterday. My mom was really nervous at first, but when she saw me tackling the boys and holding my own she became my biggest fan,” said Parkes.
Since then, her skills have developed and most of her teammates and opposition view her as formidable force.
“Multiple referees and opposing coaches pulled me aside after games to let me know how much they respected her abilities,” said Van Dokkumburg.
Parkes said despite being the only girl on the team, she is treated no differently, and she owes that inclusivity to her success.
Though her teammates see her as just another player, Parkes believes opposing players tend to underestimate her abilities because she is a girl.
“I like to prove people wrong. Everyone is surprised by the way I can tackle and that puts a smile on my face because I know how strong I am,” said Parkes.
“It pushes me to be better and prove I’m not just some girl, but a player that can contribute in every game.”