COVID-19 has not given many opportunities to prep athletes. It’s more common to read that the pandemic has taken them away. Fortunately, this was not the case for Princeton’s Sydney Eckert. Thanks to the virus spacing out the soccer and football season, it gave the senior a chance to suit up for a different sport.
Once her soccer season ended, Eckert decided to join the Tigers on the gridiron as a kicker, defensive back and wide receiver.
According to Eckert, this was something she wanted to do for a couple years, but couldn’t accomplish because of conflicting sports schedules. “I’ve been wanting to play since my sophomore year when a coach asked me to kick but it didn’t work out because I was in soccer season. However, this year with it falling after the season I knew I had to go for it,” she said.
When Princeton Girls Soccer Coach Tim Donnay heard the news about Eckert joining the football team, he was not caught off guard by the decision. “I wasn’t surprised by it. She showed interest in it years before,” Donnay said. “It really spiked her interest when we were kicking field goals in practice and a football coach saw her and approached her. When someone gets excited about what she is doing, she is all in,” Donnay added.
Transitioning from soccer to football brought up a lot of new experiences according to Eckert. “It was definitely different. Kicking a soccer ball is a tad bit different than a football,” she said.
The change in sports also involved moving from a team of all girls to a team of all boys. However, Eckert was welcomed by her new team. “Going from a team of all girls to all boys was an adjustment but they were so welcoming and all of my teammates are so supportive and awesome,” Eckert said.
Head Football Coach Ryan Fay was happy to have Eckert join the team. “We were lucky enough to have her join us. At the end of her soccer season she wanted to see what football was all about and we were glad to take her on,” he said adding that she practices with the defensive backs and wide receivers as well as kicking.
As Eckert joined the team and began practicing every day, it wasn’t much of a change for the football team. “It really hasn’t been that different for us because of how much of a hard worker she is. Day two she came in and jumped to the front of our warm up lines and started telling people what to do. You can tell she is a leader in her other sports, she stepped right in,” Fay said.
In the Tigers’ most recent game against Little Falls on Nov. 12, Eckert got her opportunity to take to the field.
After a rushing score by Kaden Olson, Eckert was told she would be kicking the extra point on a chilly night. “Coach [Chad] Ruzek came up to be and said “Syd, get ready, you’re kicking after this touchdown.” With my feet being so cold, I was feeling pretty nervous,” she said.
Lining up to kick the PAT, Eckert was able to drill the attempt despite her nerves. “As I stepped on the field my adrenaline shot through the roof and after kicking I was so happy, hearing my friends cheer for me and my teammates and coaches giving me high fives and pats on the helmet,” Eckert said.
Fay was happy to provide Eckert the chance to see the field and attempt the extra point. “It was really cool to see her go onto the field and execute her kick,” he said.
As the football season winds down for Princeton, Eckert does not regret her decision to join the Tigers under the Friday night lights. “Looking back it means so much to me and I felt so grateful to have been given a chance like this.”
Moving forward for future Princeton girls, Eckert hopes she has provided a good example for those who may want to try football or other sports. “I hope I opened the doors of opportunity to other girls. Trying something new is totally worth it,” Eckert said.
Princeton and Eckert will now head into the postseason. Play begins on Nov. 21 with the Tigers taking on Delano at John Harvey Field.