Allison Chang: Scoring points for gender equity
by Donica Kaneshiro | March 21, 2023
It has been more than 50 years since Title IX prohibited gender discrimination in educational programs and activities, including high school sports. But it wasn’t until 1994 that Tui Moe became the first female football player to score a point in a varsity game in Hawaii.
Since then, the number of girls suiting up alongside the boys has been slowly but steadily growing. Girls make up just 0.3% of football players nationally, according to statistical data research company Statista.
One of those girls is Allison Chang, who made a splash on the local football scene this year. Her dad, Strategic Analytics Manager Michael Chang, supported her from the sidelines as she scored her way to accolades.
Michael didn’t set out to raise a female football player. He simply advised his daughter to get involved and be unrestrained by traditional gender roles as he supported her passions.
Little did he know that his daughter Allison would be named an Interscholastic League of Honolulu (ILH) All-Star for her contributions to the Iolani football team.
“People say, ‘Aren’t you afraid of her getting hurt?’” Michael said. “I’m like, ‘Not really.’ She’s a tough girl.”
Both Allison, 17, and her sister Kristin, 19, were always very self-motivated. Both girls asked in turn if they could apply to attend Iolani School to challenge themselves academically. Michael and his wife, Kelly, were supportive of the girls shaping their own path and when each girl was accepted in the 7th grade they agreed to let them attend the school on the condition that they take advantage of all the school has to offer, including afterschool activities.
When Allison was exploring her extracurricular options upon enrollment, she noticed that the school had a girl in the position of kicker on the varsity football team. She decided to see if the skills she had picked up from years of playing soccer and studying taekwondo would translate to the sport.
“She told us that she was joining the intermediate football team; she didn’t ask permission,” Michael remembered with a laugh. Although it was a tough transition, Allison was placed on the roster and has played football ever since.
“I always had confidence in her,” Michael said. “I never thought that she was ever in danger. I thought that the challenge was character building. It was building mental toughness.”
To prepare for the pressure, the coaches at Iolani had Allison perform a fourth-down kicking drill to close every practice.
“If she missed, the team ran sprints,” Michael said. “If she would miss, that devastated her as the boys would give her a hard time and she took it personally.”
The hard work paid off as Allison converted on 98 extra points for the Raiders and kicked 15 field goals.
Even through the bumps and bruises, Michael appreciates the lessons that sports have taught his daughters: having a coachable attitude, working as a team, taking advantages of the opportunities life gives you, and persevering through the hard times. But through all the seasons, Michael said no one ever questioned Allison’s place on the football team.
“In the age we’re in, my girls do not see any limits in their minds for sports or careers they can do,” he said. “Sports are clear cut, you can kick the field goals or you can’t, you can handle the pressure or you can’t.’”
The most difficult thing the Chang family has had to deal with is social media, which has proven a blessing and a curse. It has allowed local female football players to connect, but the girls must learn to deal with a much larger audience as plays and post-game interviews are posted, shared and critiqued.
“The social media thing, if anything, has been challenging,” Michael said. “They react to it and then we must discuss with them — either forget about it or accept it. That pressure is there.”
He said Allison strives to prove the naysayers wrong. “There’s no reason to be a token girl on the team; she wants to do the job and earn her position.”
It is a lesson that will serve her well as she goes on to study engineering in college.
“The frequent promotion and celebration of women in STEM has a positive impact,” Michael said. “There is zero thought in her mind that women are any less capable.”
For Michael and Kelly, the silver lining of the pandemic was that they got to spend so much time at home with their daughters right before they moved out for college, as Kristin is having an international experience at the University of British Columbia and Allison is weighing her next move after she graduates this year.
Michael says the best thing a parent can do to raise confident kids is be involved and challenge them with new experiences. “Spend as much time engaging with your kids as possible,” he said. “Be their parent.”
Donica Kaneshiro is a communications consultant at Hawaiian Electric Company.