DMU’s first female Falcon – #ThisGirlCan

By Tyler Arthur 

American football is inarguably one of the toughest, grittiest, most aggressive sports on the planet – but that’s not stopping one young student from signing up to be her university side’s first female player.

It takes an unparalleled level of technique, mental and physical strength to play at a high level.

Yet ‘America’s game’ is one which allows for people of all different sizes to play, and there is a position suitable for everyone.


FOR EVERY 1: Alison was the first girl to ever ask about joining the American Football team, even though it was a mixed team all along. 

Millions of men across the world play football, whether they’re almost seven feet tall and 300 lbs, or sub-six-foot speed demons  – all with different roles and assignments.

As well as those guys, any who attend De Montfort University have been able to play for the DMU Falcons; the resident American football team.

But what about the girls? It is #ThisGirlCan week after all.

Alison Exley, 20, who was born in South Africa, and lived there for half of her life, joined DMU in 2016.


KITTED UP: Alison doesn’t just sit back and watch the boys. 

She wanted to do something new and exciting in her spare time, alongside studying her Drama course, and so she looked to join a society or sports club.

“I was at the activities fair, and when I saw some of the team members throwing an American football around I thought I’d ask if they had a girls team,” she said.

Although there had never actually been any female players, the team is a mixed-gender club, and men and women are welcome to join.

After showing an interest, Alison was invited to attend the upcoming Freshers’ Week taster sessions; and the rest is history.

“When I went to the taster sessions, I was the only girl there,” she added. “It was really daunting, I thought I was destined to fail, however, when I achieved something it felt amazing!”

After two taster sessions, she decided to sign up for the team, and officially became the first female player to be recruited to the Falcons.

“I was nervous, being the first girl to join – but it meant I was making a change,” Alison proudly remembers.

“At the point I realised that I didn’t care if any other girls had played on the team before, it also meant that, as I would be the first, I could make a difference.”

Alison’s addition to the team was more than just another wide receiver to add to the group, she had an even bigger influence off the field, an impact recognised by coaches of the team.

“Last year at our awards ceremony, I got a medal from the coaches for bringing about change in the team – I think it was a good change – I feel like I brought a new perspective to the sport,” she proudly reflects.

“Within the team, I would also say, some of the boys have become more gentlemanly since I joined as well,” Alison smiles.

And, the team wasn’t the only benefactor upon her arrival; she also had a unique and fun experience, one which no girl had ever had at DMU.

“I can honestly say I’ve made some friends for life, that I treat like my bigger brothers.”



FALCONS FAMILY: Alison said her teammates feel like ‘older brothers’.

After completing her rookie season, she became the secretary on the team’s committee and she now helps to run and organise the team, as well as also looking to help expand the female interest in the sport.

So far, she has had some success, as there have been four more girls present at training during the 2017/18 preseason.

“At this rate, next year the hashtag will have to be updated to #TheseGirlsCan!”


GIRL POWER: Follow @DMUFalcons on Twitter to find out more. 

The DMU Falcons are playing their first game of the season on Sunday(NOV26), as the side travel to Lincoln, planning to build on last year’s late-season improvements, including the biggest win in the team’s history – when they beat Manchester Metropolitan Uni, 38-0.



  1. Great article, well written and informative!

  2. Anne-Marie Clarkin says:

    Absolutely fabulous!! Go girl!! -& thank u to Tyler Arthur for a great article too, showing any other girls interested, that ‘they can!’ too!! X

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