Blazing a new path
Every once in a while, a person comes along who redefines the standard and blazes a new path. For Pilot Point, that person is Tanna Tuinei.
Tuinei has etched her name in history, becoming the first female to play football for the Pilot Point Bearcats. She joined the team last Friday and hopes to earn the starting kicker position.
She’s aware of the historic moment and wants to embrace it to empower girls and young women everywhere.
“I like to be the first in anything,” said Tuinei, a senior. “I wanted to be the first girl to show younger girls that they can do whatever they want as long as they work hard enough. It’s not just a saying. If they step out of their comfort zones, they can achieve anything.”
Tuinei is a cousin of late Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Mark Tuinei, who won three Super Bowls with the Cowboys in the 1990s.
“She is an excellent soccer player and plays year round,” Bearcats head coach Rob Best said. “She has a very strong leg and has a lot of athletic ability.”
Tuinei said she wants to be a professional soccer player. She competes in the Elite Clubs National League, founded in 2009 to provide a competitive environment for young women.
The competition for the starting kicker position will be between Tuinei and returning all-district kicker Jaime Tavera. Tuinei said other players have kidded Tavera for potentially losing his spot to a girl.
“We’re a team. We’re in this together. Nobody is taking anybody’s spot,” Tuinei said.
Best said there would be no guarantees: The starting position will go to the most qualified athlete.
“Whoever is best suited for the job will get the job,” Best said.
Tuinei said the reason she decided to play football was simple. She just wanted to help out the team.
uinei thought about going out for the team last year. One day, she went out to kick with coach Tim McFadden. The session left him very impressed.
“He was like, ‘Have you ever thought about kicking?’ I said, ‘No, I haven’t.’” He said I needed to start thinking about it, Tuinei said.
Tuinei reached out to the coaching staff this summer and said she was interested in trying out.
“I told them If they wanted me to, I was totally still interested in doing it,” Tuinei said.
McFadden told Tuinei to plan on attending two-a-days August 1.
“I got super excited and started practicing really hard. I kicked the ball three to four times a week,” Tuinei said.
Once Tuinei made the varsity roster for the upcoming season, strangers started approaching her in public and congratulating her for making the team.
Parents that I didn’t know would come up to me and say ‘Hey you’re kicking for the football team; that’s so cool,’’’ Tuinei said.
“I came from the city and in the city you’re just another person. Here, you’re seen as an actual person.”
Tuinei moved to Pilot Point in the seventh grade from Highland Village. She was shocked at her reception.
“They announced over the intercom ‘Make sure you give Tanna Tuinei a big welcome,’’’ Tuinei said. “It made me realize that I wasn’t just someone else.”
Special teams coach Greg Lane coached a female kicker at Keller Central High School in 2003.
“Just like Tanna, she was a soccer player who wanted to kick,” Lane said.
Lane said he won’t be playing favorites when deciding who will kick this fall.
“I’ll help her out and coach her just like I would any other kicker,” Lane said. “As far as leg strength, she’s as strong kicking the ball as any kicker I have right now.”