When she hears the hecklers or the doubters, Valentine Habrard usually just lets her talent provide the reply.
But when they do feel the need to respond verbally to those who wonder why they have girls on their team, Habrard and her soccer teammates at Dallas International School have a secret weapon.
“We just speak to each other in French,” Habrard said. “It’s good for that.”
Habrard isn’t the only girl in the league (DIS has several on its team alone because of small enrollment), but no others have been as successful. Playing a variety of positions, mostly on defense, the senior has led her team to the playoffs multiple times.
Habrard has been a four-year varsity starter at DIS, and last fall, she was honored with a spot on the TAPPS all-state team — a first for a female in a boys league.
“She is a pioneer. She’s been that way since she was a little girl,” said DIS soccer coach Sergio Franklin. “She’s a very well-rounded player. She’s fearless and doesn’t shy away from contact if an opponent is bigger, stronger, or faster. That’s what sets her apart.”
Habrard grew up in a soccer family, accustomed to competing against the boys. Her father played in his native France, and she’s frequently trained with both of her brothers, who also play at DIS. She played alongside her older brother for two years, then took over his position after he graduated.
“I didn’t feel weird playing against boys. It felt normal. I was just playing against another team,” Habrard said. “Playing with my brothers was a big part of it, but I also watch a lot of soccer.”
Perhaps her greatest accomplishment came this season, after she missed the first part of the year with a knee injury. When Habrard returned, the team’s starting goalkeeper had appendicitis. So she took over in goal, becoming the first female keeper in the five-year history of the program. And she led DIS to the state semifinals in the process.
“Boys shoot a lot harder and a lot faster,” Habrard said. “I actually really liked it a lot. I was surprised at how well I did.”
Habrard hopes to continue playing soccer in college if she has the opportunity. But in the meantime, she’s shattered plenty of stereotypes and has the hardware to prove it.