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Red Bank Regional RBR Liva Helt
Dec 13, 2018

RBR Female Football Player is an Inspiration

Red Bank Regional RBR Liva Helt

By any measure, Red Bank Regional (RBR) junior Liva Helt, 16, has lived an unconventional life. A Danish citizen born in the Czech Republic, she lived in Vienna and California before settling with her family in New Jersey in seventh grade.

Every summer, Helt travels to her home country to play on the Danish National Youth Soccer team. During the school year, she travels from Little Silver to Somerset to practice with the Players Development Academy (PDA), an elite soccer club that promotes youth soccer excellence with national and international competitions. Helt’s soccer skills and academic record earned her admission to Columbia University two years ahead of her graduation.

PDA rules prevent Helt from playing soccer on her local high school team, but don’t affect her participation in other sports teams. Last year, a spark germinated at a RBR football game. She watched the place kicker kick an extra point through the uprights and thought, “If I can kick a soccer ball, I bet I can kick a football.”

Helt had no real knowledge of football, but emailed football Coach Nick Giglio and asked if she could join the team. He responded quickly, and she was on the practice field in July.

“I am very proud of Liva for putting herself out there in a different environment, going from the soccer field – where she is ultra-comfortable – to a football field where she had to learn the game from scratch,” Giglio said. “She is very coachable, and is a high-level athlete no matter what sport she plays. Her concentration, focus, and intensity show when performing her responsibilities on the field.”

RBR set up a special accommodation in a solitary changing room and a locker in the equipment room, and her 40 male teammates welcomed her as one of the team.

“My teammates have been very supportive and encouraging,” Helt said. “They told me, ‘You can kick a soccer ball, you can do this.’”

Helt has kicked for both the varsity and junior varsity teams. She recounts an October game when she kicked a field goal for the varsity team.

“It was just before my birthday and I came out and did it!” she said. “Afterward, they all sang Happy Birthday to me.”

In her first football season, Helt has scored 18 points so far; she has her accuracy down and is working on distance. Asked if she was afraid of being tackled, she replied, “I have two older brothers, and am kind of a tomboy. But I feel great protection from my team and trust them to protect me.”

Helt plans to continue kicking for RBR’s football team next year. After she completes her college studies, she hopes to continue traveling around the world and perhaps pursue a career in politics or medicine.

Helt admitted another reason motivated her to play football with RBR’s boys: “With everything that is going on with women and how they are being treated, I wanted to do something where I could break a glass ceiling. As my dad always says, ‘Be the change you want to see.’ It was very important for me to do this.”

Giglio said, “I believe this experience has broadened her level of play, and has shown her and many other girls and boys that if you want to do something in life, then go get it. Take the initiative and combine it with hard work and you can accomplish anything you want in life!”

In spite of local and national media attention, Helt insisted her story is not about doing something unconventional.

“The story,” she said, “is that a group of 40 boys adapted willingly to this change and have so well supported me in it.”