Beth Bates got her foot in the door of football history

October 26, 2016 FieldsColumn

BY MIKE FIELDS

It’s been more than 30 years since Beth Bates kicked her way into Kentucky high school football’s history books, but she’s still occasionally reminded of her headline-grabbing days at Williamsburg High School.

“People bring it up, so it comes back around every so often,” Bates said recently. “And I have told my kids about it. They know the story.”

Beth Bates in 1983

Beth Bates in 1983

As a junior at Williamsburg in 1982, she booted five extra points for the Yellow Jackets to become, as far as anybody could document, the first girl in the state to ever score points in football.

In her senior season, Bates became the first girl to kick a field goal in state history when she connected on a 22-yarder for Williamsburg in a 12-3 loss to Lynn Camp.

Even though she garnered lots of attention in those ground-breaking days, Bates didn’t see herself as a pioneer. 

“At the time, it was just about doing it because I could do it. I loved football and I could kick, so I kicked.”

When she was 10, Bates won a Punt, Pass & Kick competition (which included mostly boys) in Whitley County. She won again when she was 12, but declined an offer to kick for her middle-school football team.

When Williamsburg Coach Bob Rose invited her to try out for the high school team late in her sophomore year, Bates had a change of heart. That summer she practiced with her younger brother Hunter, a back-up quarterback, and his friend Todd Freeman, a back-up center, and realized, yes, she could do the job.

After spending two years on the sidelines as statistician, she put on a helmet and pads, joined the team and kicked her way into history.

Beth Bates today

Beth Bates today

“Looking back, I realize what a special opportunity I had,” she said. “And it was great to be the first in Kentucky, and the first to score in Tennessee, too.” (Bates had a PAT in a game at Jellico, Tn.).

Bates, a terrific athlete, excelled as a basketball player at Williamsburg and went on to play college hoops at Belmont.

After graduating, she was a middle school teacher and basketball coach in Shelby County for seven years before changing careers. She’s been working for Humana Health Insurance the past 15 years.

Bates has two adopted children from Guatemala — Manny Summers-Bates, who’s 11, and Sophie Summers-Bates, who’s 10. She wanted to set an example for them by keeping active, so she set a goal to complete a sprint triathlon (swimming, biking and running for a total of about 18 miles) before she turned 50 this past June.

“I did one, and I thought, hey, I can do some more of these,” she said. “So I actually did five before I was 50.”

Bates was consciously trying to set an example for her kids by completing those triathlons, but 34 years ago she didn’t know she was setting an example for high school girls by playing football.

Over the past three decades there probably have been dozens of girls who’ve followed in Bates’ footsteps in Kentucky. This season, for example, Hailey Chappell has booted two field goals and 25 extra points for Owen County, and Ermina Ramic has had a PAT for Southwestern.

“It’s nice to know it’s still happening,” Bates said modestly.

Beth Bates with daughter Sopie and son Manny.

Beth Bates with daughter Sophie and son Manny.