Most teenage girls have a Christmas wish list that likely includes the latest fashions or electronics.
The Christmas of 2017, Madison Alves received a present from her uncle Jimmy that foreshadowed her entrance Cranston West High School as a ninth grader the following fall.
Uncle Jim gave his niece a football kicking stand. If you know anything about 14-year-old Madison, you know the gift was warmly received. We’re talking about a young lady who once suited up for Cranston’s League for Cranston’s Future (CLCF) football. When her father Steve was an assistant coach at Exeter/West Greenwich High, the preteen Madison would sprint out to the field to either fetch the aforementioned kicking tee or distribute water during timeouts.
“Anything to get on the field. That was always the goal,” Madison Alves said.
Added Steve Alves, “She’s been exposed to football for a while.”
From scoring touchdowns for CLCF to receiving football-themed Christmas gifts, the daughter of Steve and Lisa Alves spent the summer leading into her freshman year at Cranston West thinking how she could become a part of the school’s football program. Given her penchant for kicking a soccer ball, Madison didn’t have to strain too much about what her role might entail.
“Kicking was something that I knew I could do and have a lot of fun with,” Madison said.
The Falcons were in the market for a kicker who could handle field goals and point-after tries. Madison signed up for the preseason competition derby and succeeded in winning the job. The achievement meant that she would be part of a Cranston West team on which older brother Cameron is the starting quarterback and papa Steve is listed as a volunteer coach.
Welcome to All in the (Football) Family, Cranston West-style.
Cranston West has played four games to date with the next one scheduled for this Friday night against Portsmouth at Cranston Stadium. Thus far, Madison Alves has attempted 10 PATs. She’s missed just one, offering further proof that soccer players make excellent candidates when it comes to kicking the football.
“She adds a dimension we didn’t have. It’s not like it’s a sideshow out there,” said Steve Alves, presently West Warwick High School’s Dean of Students. Steve also has served as the football head coach at Pawtucket’s Shea High and, later, West Warwick.
“It’s not as weird as people might think. One thing about our team is that we all grew up together. Madison is friendly with everyone,” said Cameron Alves, who took over as the Falcons’ No. 1 quarterback after lining up at slot receiver and running back last year as a sophomore.
“It’s just Madison,” Cameron continued.
Madison Alves would have loved to continue suiting for CLCF beyond her fifth grade season, yet she had reached a point where it would have been dangerous for her to compete against boys who were faster and stronger. Instead, she devoted her energy to soccer, but football never seemed to drift too far from her mind.
In 2015, the Rhode Island Interscholastic League’s Principals’ Committee on Athletics approved a revision to an already existing rule that would permit student-athletes to participate simultaneously in more than one sport during the same season. For someone in Madison’s position, this meant she could kick footballs and maintain her commitment to Cranston West’s girls’ soccer varsity team.
“I try and balance everything,” Madison said.
Once it became apparent that Madison was going to win the kicking job, the Falcons mapped out a practice schedule that would enable her to get her kicks in but not take her away from soccer. Twice a week, usually on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Madison will kick for 10-15 minutes before heading to soccer practice.
“It’s nice to see him be the big brother and not act as if she’s stealing some of the spotlight from him.”
When Madison does practice with the football Falcons, she’s subjected to teammates rushing at her, looking to block the kick. She welcomes that, as well as the heckling that’s done to prepare her for what might be in store come Friday nights.
“She enjoys it,” Steve Alves said. “She’s an athlete and a competitor and prides herself on producing.”
“Everyone has been great. They’re all real nice to me,” Madison Alves said. “It’s definitely a different experience, going from soccer to kicking footballs, but I got acclimated to it quickly and I really love it.”
“It definitely gives us a boost. Should we go for it on fourth down or try for three points?” Cameron Alves said.
Cameron has been a calming influence for Madison. When he isn’t carving up the opposition with his arm or legs, her brother is the Falcons’ field-goal holder.
“It’s nice to see him be the big brother and not act as if she’s stealing some of the spotlight from him,” Steve Alves said.
There are times when Cameron, 16, will remind Madison to picture herself on the practice field and her kicks are dead-on. Most of the time, Madison will trot out with a look on her face that tells Cameron one thing – she’s got this.
“The great thing about Madison is that she doesn’t get too high or too low. She’s always right in the middle,” Cameron Alves said. “She’s very relaxed and calm and takes advice very well.”
Though Madison Alves may still be a neophyte when it comes to sending footballs skyward, she’s already developed a keen sense of the differences between kicking a football versus kicking a soccer ball.
“In football, you want to kick it with your toe. In soccer, you use the inside of your foot. That’s why you see footballs travel straight while soccer balls are more on an angle,” said Madison, who this fall has lined up at striker, midfield, and goalie for the Cranston West soccer team.
A dedicated soccer player who also plays basketball and runs track, Madison Alves has proven to be a natural when it comes to getting her kicks in on the gridiron. She’s already enthusiastically looking forward to next season when Cameron will be a senior and she’ll be a sophomore.
Reminded that there’s still plenty of season left to go before the Falcons’ 2018 final chapter is completed, Madison smiled. Her next threshold to cross is attempting a field goal. At the moment, her range is roughly 30 yards away. But since she’s solidified the Falcons’ kicking game, the sky appears to be the limit for this teenage girl who’s well on her way to carving out her own special niche within the Alves’ football annals.