Pair of Female Football Players Breaking Down Barriers at Wisdom High School

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Ikem (left) and Rubio (right) are seniors at Wisdom that play on the varsity football team.

David Fanucchi, News Adviser

Wisdom High School seniors Chelsea Rubio and Lobi Ikem have been best friends since they met during their freshman year. So, when they hatched an idea during the pandemic-shutdown last quarter of their sophomore year (April-May 2020), the two multi-sport athletes were planning on executing it as juniors. The thought was to take on a brand-new experience – to do something different and unexpected. Both of them were going to try out for the Wisdom tackle football team.
“That didn’t work out well, because football practice was too tough to get to, and the games barely took place due to the virtual school year,” said Ikem. “We decided to wait and do something memorable as seniors.”
That’s exactly what they have done for the 2021 Generals. Head Coach Jacque Tinsley has both Rubio and Ikem playing significant minutes on both sides of the ball for Wisdom this season, with neither girl having ever played the sport prior to practices beginning in August. That’s not to say they weren’t athletic enough to pick it up quickly. Both ladies played soccer and basketball for the Generals, before the pandemic hit.
“Football is not really that difficult to learn, if you are a teachable person” said Rubio, who plays left guard on the offensive line and left tackle on the defensive line. “I have been picking up some more details by watching college and NFL games on TV and trying to look at some of the strategies that those linemen use.”

Rubio attacks a blocking dummy at practice

Ikem – who came to America from Nigeria in 2018 – loves the thought of having the chance to mix it up with the boys. “I was really excited and scared the first game of the season, but since then I’ve been getting more comfortable out there,” said Ikem, who primarily plays linebacker on defense. “I really enjoy hitting people, and I’ve been working on my tackling and blocking skills. It’s a fun game.”

Ikem lines up to hit a barrier at practice

Rubio and Ikem are not the only girls on the field for Wisdom. English teacher Lauren Bottoms is in her first year as an assistant coach for the team and applies some of her classroom management techniques to football practice. “Coach Bottoms has been outstanding in helping us with team discipline, strategy, and logistics, as well as when Chelsea or Lobi need anything specific,” said Tinsley.
Ikem was named the “General of the Game” after the teams’ first week, voted on by her teammates as the player that gave the most effort. Now over six weeks into the season, Ikem feels like they are all continuing to come together as a team. “The boys are treating us just like they do any of their other male teammates,” said Ikem.
The duo has been extremely impressive both on and off the field. “These two young women have the best attitudes on our entire team. They are dependable, responsible for their actions, and make outstanding grades,” said Tinsley. “They have earned the respect of every player and coach we have.”
Rubio loves the adrenaline rush she gets right before the first kickoff. “That nervous excitement and energy is pretty thrilling. It’s definitely there, but as soon as I get in that first hit, I start to settle down.”
Whether they have become trend setters, that has yet to be seen. “I think any girl that has the interest to try out football, absolutely should,” said Ikem. “You have to try something new in your life at least once, right? Don’t be afraid. Just go for it.”
The Wisdom Generals take on Richmond Foster on Saturday, September 25 at 6 pm at Houston ISD’s Dyer Stadium.