Athens’ Riley Thompson is only 10 years old, but she is already a multi-sport athlete.
Thompson wrestles with Higher Calling out of Cleveland, played football last year for the Athens Hawks and is now playing travel softball for the Knoxville Explosion 09.
Her parents, Larry and Kathy Thompson, want her daughter to do as many different sports as she wants to.
“Its been really good for her,” he said. “Especially in her confidence, her self-esteem. She’s very athletic, extremely active. It’s just a really good outlet. It keeps you out of trouble. It teaches you the value of teamwork. The importance of taking care of yourself. There is a lot of things that go into (sports).”
Her brothers, Brian and Matthew, have encouraged her to play sports, whether it’s with girls or boys. Brian is a freshman wrestler at McMinn County High School and Matthew, who has graduated, also wrestled.
Therefore, it’s only natural for Riley to follow.
“I want to do what my brothers do,” Riley, who also has a sister, Laura, said.
According to her father there is no youth wrestling program in McMinn County, something he said is badly needed, so he took her down to Higher Calling wrestling in Cleveland. She competes in the 64-68-pound midget division and, as it turns out, she’s pretty good despite this being her first year on the mat.
She once pinned a boy in 15 seconds and she has pinned a girl in 13 seconds.
“I took her down there and signed her up,” her father said. “She was just killing those little boys down there.”
Riley, who sported a 25-5 record her first year, was asked what she likes about wrestling.
“I like beating the boys,” Riley said.
She also likes beating the boys in football. Competing in the Crickets division for the Athens Hawks, Riley, playing linebacker, was named the team’s defensive MVP. Of course, she had extra motivation there.
“He (the Hawks coach) was promising her my money (for tackles),” her father said. “It didn’t work out good.”
Riley had a similar answer for why she likes football and boys were part of her answer. She added that it’s easier to play against the boys in football.
“I like tackling the boys,” Riley said. “It’s easier (playing agains them). The boys are scared of me and don’t want to tackle me.”
Riley also placed third in the regional competition of the Punt, Pass and Kick contest in Chattanooga two years ago.
While wrestling and football are more commonly associated with boys, her father said playing those sports have been good for Riley. Her mother said her brothers pushed her to try out for the Hawks.
“It’s made her stronger and given her a ton of self-confidence,” Larry Thompson said. “We signed her up for football because we wanted to boost her self-confidence and playing with boys and that went well.”
Now, however, football will have to take a back seat as Riley has found a new sport in travel softball. Since it doesn’t end until sometime in October, she likely won’t play football again. But she will continue wrestling, which she says she wants to do through high school.
But softball, which she has played with the Chattanooga Fury and now plays for the Knoxville Fury, is now her favorite sport. That is not a surprise to her parents.
“She’s good at football and wrestling, but she’s really, really good at softball,” her father said. “As soon as it’s warm enough to go outside she wants to go outside and hit or run bases.”
Her father said participating in a variety of sports has given her an opportunity to see what she likes to do. It also keeps her active, with her mother adding that Riley is easily bored so this gives her something to do.
Her parents have never limited what she can try.
“She’s like ‘can I do this?’ and I say let’s go,” her father said. “Why not? It’s just another opportunity. When she gets out of high school maybe there will be girls in Olympic wrestling. You never know, someone may offer a scholarship. This gives her the opportunity to do things. Girls wrestling is now in college, especially in the Big Ten.”