Skyline Julia Chambers

Skyline High School junior Julia Chambers is breaking down gender barriers in sports one day at a time as she plays running back for the Coyotes football program.

She is in the history books as the first-ever Arizona girls wrestling champion for the 126-pound weight division.

She’s the first-ever female running back at her high school and has attended the state championship as a track athlete. She may be one of the most talented athletes in the 2021 class that most people have never heard of.

Julia Chambers rides her motorcycle to Skyline High School every day, where she takes accelerated classes before heading out to practice in the afternoon. At lunch, the junior lends a hand to the club Coyote Strong, which creates an inclusive and welcoming space open to all students on campus looking for a place to go.

The three-sport athlete initially spent her first two fall seasons in high school as a long-distance runner. But in her heart, she wished she was on the gridiron. Growing up, she played on a youth football team, but she didn’t initially pursue it in high school because of other people’s views and opinions on it.

“It held me back, because people were telling me not to (do it),” Chambers said.

However, cross country wasn’t cutting it for her anymore.

When her junior year rolled around, Chambers decided to go for it. Nothing was going to stop her from stepping on the field and playing the game she’s loved since she was little.

“If you have a dream, you’ve gotta get after it,” Chambers said. “Whatever you need to do, whatever you have to, or whatever you want to do, you just have to keep going and do it 100 percent.”

Chambers may not always see immediate playing time on the field, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t making an impact on the team.

Skyline’s running backs coach Rashad Armstrong said she always puts full effort into practice.

“She’s not hesitant to go in and do anything,” Armstrong said. “She’s a team player and she wants to learn. We call her Ice Box because when she’s running the ball, she’s in there giving a hit to the defenders.

“It’s kind of a pleasure to have her out here.”

Chambers said her male teammates on the football team have all been incredibly accepting of her joining the team. She said on top of already having close friendships with many of them, they know she is built tough.

“They know how strong I am, as a woman and as an athlete, so they were okay with me coming on and they knew that I could be an asset to the team,” Chambers said. “I love them a lot, they’re pretty great.”

Tarik Deeb, a senior running back, says having Chambers as a member of the team is helping to bring a spotlight to the Skyline football program.

Deeb said he is looking forward to Chambers having a good season and get her name out there. He wants people to know she’s there to play.

“It’s a good experience for everyone, her being on the team makes the school, and everyone, more involved in the program,” Deeb said. “Other schools are noticing it, too.”

Deeb hopes that girls at the other schools who see her out there playing decide to join their school’s team. 

Chambers’ family and friends have all been incredibly supportive of her decision to switch from cross country to football. They all want to see her do what will be best for her in the long run.

She feels that playing football will help her when it comes to both wrestling and track.

Jaena Hamilton, one of Chambers’ old teammates on the cross country team, says it’s inspiring to watch her chase her dreams.

“When I found out she was playing football I was like, ‘that’s super cool,’” Hamilton said. “I’m super proud of her.”

Hamilton described Chambers as a leader when she ran cross country, motivating others every day to never give up.

Her positive, fearless, can-do attitude is helping her greatly when it comes to breaking down the gender barriers that still remain in sports today. She hopes that by chasing after her dreams, she can inspire other young females who may want to also participate in sports that are still predominantly geared towards males. 

“My own motivation is pretty much me and what I want to do, and also what I know girls can do,” Chambers said. “I know that we can push ourselves as much as we can and be as good, if not better, than boys can.

“It makes me feel amazing.”

Chambers hopes that if any other young girls are in her position and want to go out for a sport like football or wrestling, they decide not to listen to stereotypes and do what makes them happy, even if it presents a challenge.

Even as a three-sport athlete, Chambers has maintained a 4.1 GPA throughout her high school career. She knows the classes will be tougher this year, but she is still looking to keep the straight-A streak alive.

“I really believe being the best person I can be is being very smart,” Chambers said. “I like to be smart. I like to excel in the classroom. I want to be the best person and athlete that I can be.

“I try to do every single thing possible that will get me there.”

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