Female Football Player Mo Dew-Brunis Shares Her Experience

When senior Mo Dew-Brunis was younger, she spent hours playing sports with her cousins in a backyard or park. In seventh grade, though, she played in her first real football game. Now, five years later, Dew-Brunis serves as the Sidwell football team’s running back and its only female member. 

Transitioning from recreational to competitive sports posed some difficulties for Dew-Brunis, but she persevered. 

“Because we played with little to no rules, having to learn a specific job and understanding how the game worked was my challenge in middle school,” Dew-Brunis said. “I wasn’t alone in this, though — anyone who plays football for the first time encounters these same issues,” she added.

This sense of community accompanied the young athlete throughout her sports journey, only helping grow her love for football.

Despite being the only female athlete on the team, Dew-Brunis has found that she does not feel the need to overcompensate with her athletic ability to justify her presence. 

“Playing and being accepted are two different questions for me. The sport is hard. But I never felt like being accepted into it was, so I kept playing after seventh grade,” Dew-Brunis said. 

Dew-Brunis believes both athletes and coaches share the same objectives, allowing them to eliminate distinctions and support her as an athlete regardless of her gender. 

Head Football Coach Donald Davis agreed. 

“We haven’t encountered anything that I’d consider a challenge that’s any different from any other individual player in our program. On the field, the gender identity of our players is a non-factor,” Davis said.

However, women in football, like Director of Equity, Justice & Community and coach Natalie Randolph, have historically faced many difficulties. 

“When I became a head coach in 2010, I was the only one, so the challenges were immense,” Randolph explained. “Now, women coaching at all three levels of football and playing at the high school and college level is much more common. There are more avenues of support and women are more accepted in the space. That said, we still have work to do,” she continued.

Dew-Brunis believes football is an accepting space for all athletes where “everyone just works with what they have, as in anything else.” 

Even the typical size difference between boys and girls is not enough to discourage Dew-Brunis, who does not see her gender as a crucial component of her experience in football. 

“When I want to perform well or when I make a mistake, the first thing in my mind has never been ‘I have to do better for all female athletes,’” Dew-Brunis explained. “I usually just focus on the immediate task at hand, and if I have any broader thoughts about what I’m doing, they definitely come much later,” she added.

Davis also said the dynamic of a co-ed team is very similar to that of an all-male one, as “young people in an important time in their development are seeking to enjoy themselves with friends and accept the challenge of self-improvement that sports present.” Therefore, it is easy to appreciate each player for the qualities they bring to the team rather than pinpointing their differences. 

“There’s something to learn from everyone, and I’m grateful for that,” Dew-Brunis said.

Both coaches describe Dew-Brunis as a valuable addition to the team. 

“[S]teady, tough, and quick, [s]he is a tremendous young person and a solid teammate. Her positive impact on our team is immeasurable,” Davis said. 

Randolph feels similarly: “I always say that Mo is my idol, and I don’t say that just to say it. I admire her for being unapologetically who she is and for taking on the potential challenge of being on a male team for the joy of playing football. She is, through and through, a significant part of the Sidwell football family,” Randolph said. 

For others interested in joining football or other challenging activities, Dew-Brunis said, “if you want to do something, just do it. If you later decide it’s not for you, that’s okay, but putting yourself somewhere you’re not fully comfortable, familiar or as experienced is definitely important as you get older.”