Malooly excels in multiple sports at Green Bay East
By Greg Bates
As Rachel Malooly lined up for an extra point, the realization set in.
The Green Bay East High School kicker got nervous and pushed the ball wide left of the goal post.
“That’s the worst she’s hit a ball all year,” said East football coach Shaun Behrend. “She said it wasn’t what she was expecting with the crowd and the eyes on her – it’s a lot different.”
Malooly is used to competing in volleyball and soccer where crowd sizes aren’t as large as football.
“Being on the sideline with the guys was fun,” Malooly said. “I was super nervous, but they were all supportive. Even when I missed it, they were positive and said get the next one.”
Malooly is experiencing a number of new things this fall.
The Red Devils senior is juggling both volleyball and football – it’s her first time playing football.
Malooly was upset she missed the first extra point in the opening game of her career when East lost to Seymour 48-6 Aug. 23.
“She cares and wants to do well,” Behrend said. “This isn’t some joke to her. It’s not, ‘Look at me, I’m out here doing this.’ She’s going to be a big part of what we do and she doesn’t want to go out there and lay an egg – she’s competitive.”
Behrend suggested Malooly go out for football after he saw her kicking field goals for fun during a strength and conditioning program in summer 2018.
“Last year she wasn’t ready, but this year she was,” Behrend said. “She’s great. The guys love it. She’s earned the respect.”
Listed at 5-foot-2 and 130 pounds, Malooly isn’t your typical-sized football player.
“Really, she’s a girly-girl,” said East volleyball coach Heidi Kieffer. “She likes to do her nails, and you can tell who she is by the way she walks. It’s awesome – when you think of these big, tough football players, Rachel does not fit that description at all, but she can get the job done.”
Malooly agreed to play on the football team this year and received consent from Kieffer.
A week and a half before school started, Malooly and her coaches sat down together to discuss a schedule that Kieffer put together for how to jockey Malooly playing both sports.
“I want her to feel comfortable, but still feel like she’s getting enough time in both sports to be successful,” Kieffer said. “No athlete wants to not feel prepared.”
During a typical week, Malooly practices with the volleyball team for two hours each day before heading to football – generally on Mondays and Wednesdays – to work with the special teams units.
East typically has volleyball matches on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so she isn’t able to get to football practices those days.
With the Red Devils not having any volleyball tournaments on Fridays, Malooly won’t have to miss any football games.
After volleyball practice, she is out to the football field by about 6 p.m.
She’s able to get loose and warm-up her leg before Behrend’s special teams work on extra points.
Malooly usually gets about 45 minutes to kick during practice.
“We put her through some tackling circuit stuff to be safe on that point,” Behrend said. “Not that she’s ever going to have to make a tackle on PATs, but you want to make sure she’s safe.”
Having Malooly play both sports has been a positive collaboration between the football and volleyball programs.
“I’m glad as a coaching staff we’ve been able to work so well together to give her this opportunity,” Kieffer said. “I don’t know how many programs would be this flexible. This shows how well our athletic department supports the kids.”
Malooly is in her third year starting on the volleyball team and second season as the team’s libero.
Kieffer believes she is primed for a breakout season on the court, which could garner her all-conference honors.
Even though volleyball is her primary sport in the fall, Malooly said she enjoys being a part of the football team.
She is hoping to play a role in turning around the program, which has won only three games in the last four-plus seasons.
Malooly, whose background as a soccer player has helped with football, said she is hoping to tack on some extra points and get a shot at some field-goal attempts.
She said her longest made field goal in practice has been 32 yards, and Behrend will rely on her from 30 yards and in.
“I’ve got all the confidence in the world she’s going to go out there and put her foot into it and see what happens,” Behrend said.
There has been a lot of talk nationally lately about women kicking in football after U.S. Women’s National Team star soccer player Carly Lloyd drilled a 55-yard field goal at a Philadelphia Eagles practice.
Malooly took some motivation from seeing Lloyd excel at the men’s sport.
“I think it showed how a girl can kick the ball as far as a man, even at NFL standards,” Malooly said.
Behrend knows having a girl kicker can turn some heads, but in the coach’s mind, Malooly is one of his players.
“I don’t want it to be anything bigger than it is, and she wants that, too,” said Behrend, who also has a sophomore girl Amaia Lawrence on the team. “She wants to be normal. She wants to be on the team and be a part of it.”
Malooly said she doesn’t want to be treated any differently simply because she’s a girl.