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COLUMN: Lakewood Football Starting Ball Kids Young

Do you know Sheryl Yoast? She is the late daughter of legendary Virginia high school football coach Bill Yoast, and actor Hayden Panettiere famously played her role in the movie “Remember The Titans.”

Panettiere performed with gusto to show that a young girl can know more about football than a grown man. She stalked the stands, screaming her encouragement or frustration, and even stopped a play date with a friend to watch game film with Denzel Washington’s character, coach Herman Boone.

Kylie Agnew, 11, is the Sheryl Yoast for Lakewood football.

I noticed Kylie’s passion and presence as a ball kid on the sidelines about two minutes into the first game of the season. She was pacing and calling out legitimately sound advice to the Lancers on the field, because she knows what she’s talking about.

“My favorite part is the coaching,” Kylie said about being on the sideline on Friday night. “Just like my dad.”

Kylie’s dad is first-year Lakewood defensive coordinator Carl Agnew, who coached for 11 seasons at Los Amigos. When Kylie and her twin sister were born, the Agnew family couldn’t afford to hire babysitters, so Carl just took his daughters to work every day.

“The joke is that she was born on the football field,” Carly said of Kylie. “A year after the twins were born, we had them in baby bjorns on the field coaching with us… Ever since then, (Kylie) has always been interested in football.”

When Carl needed a ball kid on the Los Amigos sideline a few years later, he knew Kylie could handle it better than anyone. He even took her out of school to go to a scrimmage to practice working with the referees getting the balls on and off the field.

“She knows the game really well and I knew I could trust her to do it,” Carl said. “I’m in the booth so I don’t worry about her (on the sidelines during games) because I know she’s doing a good job.”

Kylie played her first season of flag football when she was 5. She also plays basketball and rugby. Carl said Kylie is falling more in love with rugby because of the predictable sexism from football coaches.

“She loves football but they don’t give her a chance because she’s a girl and because of her size,” Carl said. “I get upset because she probably knows more than (the coaches) do. I told (Lakewood coach Scott Meyer) to be careful because if you teach her the offense she’s going to come pull your shorts one day and say ‘Hey coach, you need to run this.’ There’s a good chance she’s going to be right, because she did it to us twice last season. She came up and pulled on my pants and said ‘Hey dad I think you need to run this.’ I told my offensive coach and he was like, ’That’s a great idea, let’s run it’ and then it worked.”

Kylie also said she loves getting on the sideline headsets during the game and talking to the other coaches in the booth, including her dad.

“It’s great to have family involved,” Meyer said. “It shows what we’re all about and where we want to go with the program.”

Meyer’s youngest son Kingston, 11, is also a ball kid alongside Kylie. He’s been playing flag football since the first grade and loves being on the field with his dad.

“Part of the process or method of building a successful program is getting the families involved,” Meyer said. “The coaches bringing their families and trying to get the players families involved… We even want the teachers, facility and staff to want to bring their kids to the games. It really adds to the whole program when there’s a family feel and you have families involved.”

Kylie and Kingston bonded quickly on the practice field over the summer, and the Lakewood players adopted them as two of their own.

“There were days in the summer when they’d bring their water guns to ambush our players on the way to practice,” Meyer said. “Our players have been great with them.”

“Yeah, sometimes we can hear (Kylie) yelling when we’re on the field,” Lakewood running back James Voorhies said.

Lakewood equipment manager Bobby Hauck, who has worked as a ball boy in Long Beach for years, said he didn’t have to teach Kylie and Kingston much about working the sideline during a game.

“They’re very good and they know what they’re doing,” Hauck said. “I love their enthusiasm.”

Last week at Wilson I really enjoyed watching Kylie run onto the field with the team before the game, and walk to midfield with the team captains for the coin toss.

“It’s kind of the perfect tag team as the ball kids for those two,” Meyer said.

And I agree.

JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.