THE HACKLEY REPORT
I recently met two beautiful young women walking through a local grocery store. What caught my attention about them was the aura that had encased their presence as they navigated their way through the customers in the store. It seemed as though everyone just stepped aside as this mother and daughter combination was headed in my direction. They both were larger than life and had a presence as large as a highway billboard, even though they were both about 5’2” on a tall day.
Mom was wearing Walter Payton’s No. 34 Chicago Bears jersey and daughter Jada was wearing jersey No. 34 of her Shawnee Middle School football uniform. Wow! Needless to say I stopped them. We talked and we set a date to meet at the Pontiac Branch Library for an interview. I had never experienced anything like this before. As I was speaking with mother and daughter, Mom’s eyes were so focused into my eyes as I was speaking with her daughter, I had no doubt that she could see the inner workings of my brain.
As we were parting company, we shook hands. I was being gentlemanly when I reached to shake her hand, she dropped me to one knee with her vice grip hand clasp and warm smile laced with sincerity.
Hackley: How did you become interested in playing football?
Jada: At the beginning of my seventh grade year during student registration for school, the coach happened to be standing near-by and I said, “Mom, I’m going to try out for football.” Mom got excited, but I really didn’t want to do it. But, I still signed up and after a few practices, I started to like it.
Hackley: Mom, when you saw that your daughter had made this decision, how did you feel about it?
Mom: I loved her decision and I love football. I also had a son who played for seven years in the Metro Football League in Chicago.
Hackley: What was your position?
Hackley: What did you do on end sweeps when you had many blockers and the ball carrier running right at you?
Jada: I just focused my attention and went for the tackle. That’s all you can do.
Hackley: How did the guys feel about you being on the football team?
Jada: They talked about me for weeks until I showed them that I wasn’t playing, that I was serious. I knocked a boy out cold! He was down and out!
Hackley: Were you the only young lady on the team?
Jada: No. There were two last year and one this year.
Hackley: How did your girl friends feel about this decision?
Jada: They were excited.
Hackley: Why didn’t they want to be on the team?
Jada: Because they weren’t tough like me. They’re not as daring as I am. I am strong, but I don’t fight. I do what I have to do. Me playing football shows the guys that girls can play too.
Hackley: How did you instill this inner toughness in your daughter?
Mom: I wanted her to stand and let them see that she was not weak. That she was going to be a part of this team and for the guys to accept the fact that a girl will be on the team.
Hackley: How did the men in your family feel about your decision?
Jada: My uncles and my brother loved it. My aunts didn’t really care for the idea.
Hackley: What was your scariest showdown?
Jada: In one game, a guy got the ball and ran straight at me.. I wasn’t ready for that and he knocked me on my back. The second time, I tackled him.
Hackley: Do you plan to play high school football?
Jada: Yes I do, either at Bishop Luers or Northrop.
Hackley: What do you want Jada to learn from he school experiences?
Mom: With her being in middle school, I wanted her to take on the challenge. I’m not sure about her playing in high school because that’s another level. The first thing we have to remember is, she is a young lady and the athletes are not as gentile as they are in middle school.
Hackley: How has sports helped her maturity?
Mom: In taking on more challenges, not being afraid or wanting to quit and in giving her best. In standing up for what you believe and following through on your commitments. As far as her schooling is concerned, these attributes will help her achieve academic goals and in qualifying for scholarships. Being able to stand, be independent and self-reliant is what I want her to be.
Hackley: What are your favorite classes?
Jada: Band and math. The instrument I play is the tuba. I like it because it’s big, loud and it stands out. I choose the tuba because it’s beautiful and I could be different. And, also because no one else picked it.
Hackley: After high school and college, what do you see for yourself?
Jada: I see myself as being a professional singer or lawyer. I sing in my choir at church. As far as being a lawyer, I love to argue.
Hackley: If you had the opportunity to speak to young ladies on their way to middle school, what advice would you have them about the importance of stepping outside their comfort zone?
Jada: I would tell them to it’s tough, but keep your head up high. And don’t let anyone discourage you.