Haley Van Voorhis will play football at Shenandoah U.
Photo/D.C. Divas Football Team
Haley Van Voorhis would have started as a senior last fall on the Christchurch School football team if COVID-19 had not forced the season’s cancellation, Coach Ed Homer says.
By Leonard Shapiro For FauquierNow
Haley Van Voorhis took a major step toward becoming the first woman to play a regular position on a Division III men’s college football team when she formally committed this week to attend Shenandoah University in Winchester next fall.
Van Voorhis, who stands 5-feet-6 and weighs about 150 pounds, grew up in The Plains and has played two seasons of high school football at Christchurch, a boarding school about an hour east of Richmond. In 2018, she became the first young woman to play football at the school.
She also was the women’s basketball MVP and a standout in women’s la-crosse.
“We’re looking for a certain skill set and she jumped out to one of our as-sistant coaches as a defensive back/wide receiver,” Shenandoah Coach Scott Yoder said. “We showed interest in her; she visited here, and we got to know Haley and her family and how serious she is about playing col-lege football.
“I know there will be more stories and a lot of attention to this, but this is a very fine young athlete and we think she can play. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.”
Van Voorhis said she thought long and hard about where she wanted to go to school, including the possibility of taking a year off in a post-graduate year “to get stronger and more prepared to play,” she said. “In the end, I just decided I wanted to play next year, and I’m excited about it..”
On the 2019 Christchurch football team, Van Voorhis was a reserve receiver and safety who played on special teams. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she and many other high school athletes across the country couldn’t play their 2020 senior seasons.
Van Voorhis still got plenty of playing time as a junior. Christchurch Coach Ed Homer said in January that “without a doubt,” she would have been the starting slot receiver as a senior last fall. She also was named a cap-tain for the 2020 team, even though the school did not play any games.
Shenandoah was among several Division III schools that had recruited Van Voorhis. The coaching staff had seen a game tape of her in action at Christchurch put together by Homer. Shenandoah defensive back coach Byron Mitchell saw her perform in person at a Dec. 6 college scouting combine in Richmond.
Mitchell watched Van Voorhis go through a variety of speed, strength and agility drills and then recommended to Yoder that the school try to sign her. A few weeks later, she was offered a guaranteed spot on Shenando-ah’s roster to play this fall and told Mitchell on Tuesday she had decided to come to Shenandoah.
In his eighth season as Shenandoah’s head coach, Yoder said he believes Van Voorhis will have no trouble fitting in to his program and that he has no doubt that his players will welcome her to the team. He will do whatever it takes to make her feel comfortable as a teammate and that “it will all be positive, I’m sure of that,” Yoder said.
“The biggest thing you want to know is whether a player is committed, and will they work hard,” he said. “Haley checks all the boxes. We’ll make it work.”
The writer, who lives near Marshall, retired in 2011 after decades as a sports reporter, columnist and editor at The Washington Post, where a version of this story originally appeared. He publishes Country Zest & Style magazine.