Girls playing football is really nothing new at the high school varsity level so when Tierney Fraidenburg stepped onto the field this year with the Pioneer football team she didn’t do it to stand out or make any kind of statement. She did it because she saw it as a challenge, and more importantly, because she felt like she could help the football team win games – the same reason most players join a team in high school.
And, to be honest, it looked like a lot of fun.
Fraidenburg is an outstanding soccer player and one day last year spent some time kicking a football with her family. She guessed that one of those kicks would have been good from some 35 yards out – not bad. Not bad at all.
“I had told my friends about it at school, and one of them jokingly mentioned it to coach (Bill) Bellers, who was my history teacher last year,” Fraidenburg said. “He took it pretty seriously and asked me if I wanted to kick for the football team because they were in need of a kicker. I showed him what I could do after final exams on the last day of school and he offered me a spot, giving me the summer to think it over.”
It took a while, but in late July, Fraidenburg decided to go for it and started attending practices with the team. The junior called it “a really good experience.”
“The coaches were great and the team was a good group of guys who were much more welcoming and open to me being on the team than I expected,” she said. “And I had a lot of fun with them this season.”
For Fraidenburg, 16, it was a huge kick out of her comfort zone. She had played baseball with boys’ teams when she was younger, so it wasn’t really the first time she had ever done something like that before.
“But this was a lot bigger than that, for me at least,” she says. “Because of this I was definitely nervous and a lot quieter than I usually am during the beginning of the season. But as it went on, I got more comfortable and more confident.
“I would say I was treated mostly the same by the players, and if anything, they were just a little more reserved around me. The coaches didn’t treat me any differently from the rest of the team, which I appreciated because I don’t believe that just because I’m a different gender than the rest of the players I should get special treatment. We’re all on one team and should be treated the same.”
She says the experience helped her to gain a lot of confidence in not only athletic performance but also in mental strength.
Fraidenburg, the daughter of Amy Robbins and Keith Fraidenburg, is a three-sport athlete at Pioneer. She also plays soccer – her go-to sport – and dives on the swim team.
“Diving is definitely becoming my favorite one to participate in,” she says. “This past diving/swim season has been a pretty good one, and certainly better than last year for me performance-wise.”
Fraidenburg didn’t dive as a freshman so this was just her second year on the team. And even though it was chaotic balancing two sports in the same season with school and club diving practices, it went a lot better than she expected.
“About four weeks into my seasons I started to have pain in my right foot, which I ignored so that I could continue to participate in my sports,” she said. “This definitely was not my best choice, and I developed something called Sesamoiditis which is an overuse injury that affects the sesamoid bones in your foot.”
This made diving really difficult and painful, but she was determined to finish the season. And although Fraidenburg was not able to go to the State meet this year, Pioneer had an impressive showing, finishing seventh in the state.
“I first got interested in diving when I was 9 and joined Huron Valley Swim Club,” she said. “I was planning on joining the swim team, but once I learned they had 7 a.m. meets, I chose the dive team instead. I dove only recreationally during a few weeks in the summer for six years, and fell in love with the sport.”
Fraidenburg joined Pioneer’s team during her sophomore year and EMU’s club, Legacy, last December.
“The swim and dive team is a great group of hilarious, hard working, dedicated athletes,” she says. “There is a good team dynamic, and everyone does their part so that we can get the results/wins we want.”
While interest has grown in football and diving, Fraidenburg’s first love is soccer and she’s pretty good at it, too.
“I’ve been playing soccer since I was 5 years old,” she said. “I played Rec and Ed until fifth grade when I joined Ann Arbor United Soccer Club, where I played until last year. This fall was the first time in 11 years that I wasn’t playing soccer which was really weird for me, but I enjoyed using that time to try football.”
Fraidenburg plays mostly striker on the soccer field, but she also can play midfield, and helped lead Pioneer to a strong season last year.
Her goal after high school is to dive in college.
“This is something I have been training for, and I hope to make this goal a reality,” she says.
And it’s not surprising that she wants a career in the sports field.
“I also plan to have a career in sports medicine,” she says. “I would love to be either a physical therapist or sports psychologist. Both of these careers offer help to athletes in need, and it would be so rewarding to do that. Since physically you cannot play sports forever, I want to have a career that allows me to stay connected to athletics and athletes, as they are such a huge part of my life.”