North Dakota girl defies expectations on football field, exceeds them off
Ali Moses is a senior in high school in Thompson, North Dakota, and has been playing football since seventh grade. But Moses stands out in Thompson for more than just defying gender norms in sports. As a 4.0 student and involved community member, Moses makes an impact on and off the field.
THOMPSON, N.D. — Ali Moses is often asked what it's like to be the only female player on her high school football team.
“Being the girl on the football team sounds like you might be excluded, but I’m definitely part of the team,” said Moses.
Moses, a senior at Thompson High School, has been playing football since seventh grade. But she stands out for more than just defying gender norms in sports. As a 4.0 student and involved community member, she makes an impact on and off the field.
Her football career started in sixth grade during recess, when she was dared to play a game of football with the boys. She took on the challenge, and realized it was a lot of fun. Moses spent the summer convincing her parents to let her play football in seventh grade. Reluctantly, they agreed.
“My dad, surprisingly, was kind of OK with it. My mom was a little bit hesitant at first,” said Moses. “I think I’m a pretty good convincer, I guess.”
Six years later, Moses plays on the varsity football team as a linebacker. Jake Schauer, Thompson's head football coach, describes her as the ideal player. He said she works hard on the field, follows directions and is open to coaching. Despite being the only girl on the team, she fits in seamlessly.
“She works hard and she is a member of our team who plays. There are a lot of coaches who don’t even notice she’s a female because she doesn’t stick out,” said Schauer.
Over the years, Moses’ father has become more concerned about her playing football, mostly because of the sheer size of many players. Her father has encouraged Moses to continue to get stronger, which isn’t a problem for the athlete.
Moses, who already spent a lot of time in the weight room during football season, took her lifting to the next level. Last winter, she started training to compete in weightlifting, and during her first competitive meet in January, she broke the North Dakota state record in the clean and jerk by 20 pounds.
Thompson does not have a powerlifting team, so Moses trains on her own for lifting. Her track coach, Dave Kurtz, helped her create a training program, but otherwise, it's up to her to stay motivated. She said lifting weights comes naturally, but the excitement of trying new lifts makes it easier to stay motivated while training on her own.
Her love of learning shines through in other areas of her life. She has a 4.0 GPA, is a part of the National Honor Society, is a student council member and helps tutor other students. After high school, she plans to attend the University of North Dakota for aviation, which stems from a lifelong love of nature.
“I’ve always been fascinated by nature; I love watching sunsets and sunrises. Watching the stars is one of my favorite things to do, so being up in the sky and being able to observe everything of that nature fascinates me,” said Moses.
Moses said her parents pushed her to excel academically, but doesn’t let them take all the credit.
“I like to pay attention, and like I said earlier, I love learning things, so I think that has helped me throughout the years,” said Moses.
When she is not at school or playing sports, Moses volunteers at Thompson’s fire department as a junior firefighter. While junior firefighters aren’t allowed to enter burning buildings, Moses trains with the department and helps on the scene of the fire with things like grabbing oxygen and tools, and controlling traffic.
“There have been times in the weight room where she gets a call for a fire and she just sprints out of there and goes and does her thing. It’s pretty cool to have kids like that on your team,” said Schauer.
For Eric Derry, Thompson fire chief, what stands out about Moses is her presence; even after a long day of school and practice, she shows up to calls ready to help.
“She is very energetic, willing to do anything, a go-getter — everything you want in a kid is what Ali is,” said Derry.
Fighting fires is a family affair for the Moseses. Her father is part of the department, and her sister, who is three years older, was a junior firefighter during high school as well. Moses convinced her best friend to become a junior firefighter with her, and she says they hold each other accountable.
“Anytime I can go to a fire call, I drop everything and just go,” said Moses. “Helping people around my community has been such an impactful thing to me, and that firefighting family has become like a second family to me.”
Moses laughed when asked how she balances school, sports and firefighting.
“I kind of just live day by day. I just take it as it comes,” she said. “I enjoy doing pretty much all of it, so I make time to do all the things because I enjoy doing them.”