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Stutesman takes her kicks with St. Charles North
By Dave Oberhelman | Daily Herald Columnist

Junior kicker Kat Stutesman is the first female player at St. Charles North.

 

Photo courtesy of Stutesman family

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Published: 9/27/2012 10:10 PM

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Last Saturday Kat Stutesman was in net for her club soccer team, Fox Valley Strikers, when an opponent dribbled in close looking to score.

Stutesman tackled her.

Well, “I kind of tackled her,” she said, but the contact was enough to draw a caution from the referee.

The St. Charles North junior can be excused for the momentary lapse of reason. Only the night before she was on the football field in the North Stars’ 25-6 win over Geneva. Stutesman, a kicker, is St. Charles North’s first female varsity football player.

“There might be still some doubters out there, but I think over the summer I kind of showed that I can be there,” said the 5-foot-5, 138-pound Stutesman, who has won the team’s weekly competition for starting extra-point kicker four of the first five weeks including the season opener. She said she’s 8-of-10 on point-after-touchdown attempts for the season, and converted all 6 in St. Charles North’s win over Elgin.

“Also I kind of found that after the summer was over, two weeks before school started the season just picked up and I basically found that I have 80 or 90 new brothers,” she said.

You youngsters may have to consult your grandparents’ World Book Encyclopedia, but Walter Mitty was a fictional character who could do it all.

Stutesman is that kind of girl.

Saturday she’s going for her third-degree black belt in taekwondo. She played basketball last year, and stress fractures from that sport set her back from playing soccer for the North Stars varsity in the spring. (In a side note, her football special teams unit is coached by Tom Poulin, brother of North Stars girls varsity soccer coach Ruth Vostal.)

Stutesman also referees soccer on the weekends for take-home pay, when she’s not in goal herself. She played tenor saxophone in the school jazz band last year and now plays coronet in the Wind Symphony.

She’d considered trying football before this season, but given that kind of schedule she demurred. There she was, though, last spring for a meeting of prospective 2012 players.

“Some guys were like ‘Why is a girl here,’’ she said. But she had backup from boys who knew her.

“They knew that if I’m willing to work for something I’d be able to do it,” she said.

“She showed a sincere interest in doing it, did everything she had to do, worked with the people who help our kickers, and showed a sincere interest in getting better,” said North Stars head varsity coach Mark Gould, who noted he’s not overly concerned Stutesman will get hurt.

Some of the weightier training methods in weekly summer “Warrior Training” — the truck tire flip, lifting a heavy barrel over head — were beyond her capacity, but her taekwondo regimen made things like pushups and sit-ups a snap.

“She’s pretty tough,” Gould said. “She’s a goalie.”

Some of this is genetics. Her mother, Cheryl, admitted she was a “tomboy” in her youth.

“I did what the guys were doing, and if the guys were doing it I had to do it better,” Cheryl Stutesman said. “I don’t know if she got that from me, but I have to admit what I was doing was in the backyards, it wasn’t in pads and helmets.

“Initially I was a little bit concerned about injury. I also was scared of the perception, scared because it is different, because it’s not the norm — how are the parents of the boys going to perceive it, how are her peers going to perceive it, how are other girls going to treat her because she’s playing a boys’ sport?

“Actually, everyone’s been supportive of it.”

Kat Stutesman said her female friends “think it’s really cool.”

“I go to Hosanna! Lutheran Church and I’m known there as a very competitive and sporty person,” she said. “This is the same church where I almost broke the top-story window punting. Those are some of my close friends, and they’ve been all for me doing this.”

She’s planning on kicking next year as a senior, with a year of experience under her belt.

“I’m having a ton of fun,” she said. “I think the weirdest thing about football is I’ll be lettering in a guys’ sport before lettering in a girls’ sport.”