BLAINE, Minn. (BVM) — In late August, Kendall Stadden announced her verbal commitment to playing soccer at the University of Minnesota.
“It just feels like I’m supposed to play here,” Stadden said. “Playing for my home state is going to be a different experience for me than I could’ve gotten anywhere else because I want Minnesota to succeed in a way that I couldn’t see myself having with any other school.”
At the same time, she was also preparing for her first game with the Blaine High School football team as its new kicker.
“I was really excited just to play in that first game,” Stadden
A junior at Blaine, Stadden had first been approached about kicking for the football team in early August. Blaine athletic director Shannon Gerrety had mentioned Stadden’s name to head football coach Mike Law as a possible candidate for the job.
After a practice session with Gerrety in which Stadden hit 10 of the 11 kicks she took, it was clear that she needed to try out for the team.
“I ended up being pretty good and that made me want to play even more,” Stadden said.
She tried out, made the team and was soon in pads preparing for the Bengals’ season opener against White Bear Lake on Sept. 2.
“It was really exciting,” Stadden said.
Exciting but busy as Stadden would add another varsity sport to her schedule on top of her school work and soccer which came first considering the striker is a Division I level player.
“Soccer would come first and football would be, I wouldn’t say on the side but it’s something that I get to do but I won’t put over soccer,” Stadden said.
Stadden would attend football practices when she could based on her soccer schedule. It hasn’t been uncommon for her to spend time practicing with the football team then leaving early to go play in a soccer game.
“It gets pretty busy,” Stadden said.
However, she enjoys every second of it. A soccer player since she was 3 years old Stadden has always loved the team aspect of soccer and football has obviously been different but that team aspect is still the same.
“You feel like family when you walk out onto the field,” Stadden said.
Stadden has also enjoyed the opportunity to try out a new sport and new form of kicking.
“The first few weeks of training I had a lot of fun learning how to kick a football because it is a completely different technique,” Stadden said.
As long as it didn’t affect her soccer play. That was the only concern that Stadden and her soccer coaches had when the idea of kicking for the football team was first brought up, but so far there have been no issues.
Stadden has continued to be a force out on the soccer field. Coming off a sophomore season in which she scored 25 goals, she helped Blaine bounce back from a 1-3 start to finish the regular season 11-4-1. While on the football field she has gone 7-of-8 on her extra point attempts and has made two field goals, including a last-minute game-winning 31-yard field goal to beat White Bear Lake 23-21.
What a way to celebrate a great week of women and soccer. Soccer standout and future @GopherSoccer player @KendallStadden nails the field goal as time expired for the @BlaineFootball victory. #womeninsports
cc: @SarahFuller_27 pic.twitter.com/YzlHeMYjfA
— Minnesota Aurora FC (@MNAuroraFC) September 3, 2021
That experience was one she will never forget and two weeks later, she had a similar experience in the Bengals’ home opener. Stadden had hit a 36-yard field goal in the first quarter, but by the beginning of the fourth quarter, Blaine was down 25-3 to Champlin Park. That’s when the Bengals went on a 23-point comeback, scoring three touchdowns and a safety. Stadden hit all three extra point attempts with the last one taking place with 20 seconds left in the game to give Blaine a 26-25 lead.
However, it was in the moments after the game that Stadden realized what her journey meant to those who were watching it.
“I think my first moment of realization of how my position on the team affected younger girls and kids was after our first home game,” Stadden said. “I had about three or four little girls run up to me and ask me to take a picture which was so simple but so moving for me.”
Stadden takes pride in being a role model for younger girls and hopes to continue being one when she becomes a Gopher in two years, but first she has to decide whether she will be returning as the Bengals’ kicker next year.
“I’ve thought a lot about it,” Stadden said. “I’ve been asked by many people if I’m going to do it again and my honest answer is I don’t know.”
Stadden has never gotten to really experience being a fan in the student section with her friends and classmates. Wanting that experience along with soccer taking precedence means there is no guarantee she will be back out on the gridiron with the Bengals next year, but Stadden did have this to say as far as what she will do next year:
“The experience especially in the first and third week games where I got to kick the game winning points,” Stadden said. “It’s a different feeling than the kids in the student section get to experience and I don’t want to take that for granted by not kicking next year.”