"Innovative Sports" will be a new series that I'll write from time to time featuring sports that are new or that you may not know about. Today's featured sport is women's football. Most people, when they think of women playing football, harken back to the select few kickers who played in Division I, but we actually have teams that play locally in two expanding leagues.
The first team up is the Seattle Mist of the Legends Football League (formerly called the Lingerie Football League). I caught up with them at a tryout at the Tacoma Soccer Center. The first person I talked to was manager Mike McGhee, a very welcoming individual who was drawn to be a part of the team because of the level of commitment of play and the love of football. Not to be outdone, another cheerful person I met was Shanin Davis, one of the assistants. She mentioned how she once played an exhibition football game in high school and was drawn to it. Unfortunately for her, at the time there wasn't a league like this. So she now helps out on letting others succeed.
David Price, the assistant coach and coach of the defense, is in his third year with the team. He has a background ranging from playing football in high school to playing with the semi-pro Pierce County Bengals. You can tell he's a competitor: while most LFL teams have a playbook with 10-15 plays, the Mist have 60. He likes to quote Shawn Kemp in saying "People judge us by the uniform and not the quality of play. Give us a chance and watch the game."
Jessica Hopkins, in her fifth year with the Mist, is the heart of the team. She plays WR/FS/RB, and has a background in volleyball, track, and basketball. A co-worker invited her to a tryout and she's been hooked ever since. She is basically the go-to player on the team: if a newer player has a question, Jessica will have an answer for them, along with support. She says she loves the fierceness of the game: "This isn't powder puff. Watch one hit and you'll know the difference." That's true. In the games I watched, they meant serious business.
I also talked to LaShaunda Fowler, who plays WR/TE/DE/C. She mentioned that a player has to be disciplined because they play on both sides of the ball and there are only seven to a side, with everyone eligible.
The next team I visited was the Tacoma Trauma of the Women's Football Alliance. The WFA is different from the LFL as the WFA plays 11 women on a side as opposed to seven in the LFL, and the WFA players wear full pads, as opposed to the outfits of the LFL.
The first person I talked to at the Trauma was Jennifer Hogate, a former player and now one of the owners. She used to play for the Seattle Majestics but hated the commute to Kent for practice so she, along with her partner and player Brandi Ockenfels, created the Tacoma Trauma. Jennifer stresses that it's a family fun environment and that they work together.
The veteran of the Trauma would have to be Michel Volk, who played with the Seattle Majestics for eight years before an injury sidelined her. She was out for two and a half years before meeting up with the Trauma. She says, "It's addictive to square up to someone man-on-man." She's missed holidays, family gatherings, and birthdays to get her football fix. Patricia O'Connell, S/RB, who is currently serving in the military and used to play for the Clarksville Fox, says, "I was addicted from the first hit! We hit as hard, play as hard, just with less experience."
The coach, Dennis Lee Stone, has a background that includes playing high school football, semi-pro with the Nebraska Panthers, and being a player/coach with the Pierce County Bengals. He admires the women, saying they have more focus and discipline than the men he's coached.
I've seen both of these teams play their hearts out and the level of support in this close-knit community is so strong that the Seattle Mist has attended a Tacoma Trauma game.
The Seattle Mist play this Friday, May 2, at the Showare Center in Kent and can be reached at lflus.com/SeattleMist or their Seattle Mist Facebook page. The Tacoma Trauma's next game is May 17th at Curtis High School in Tacoma. They can be reached at TacomaWomensFootball.com or their Tacoma Trauma Facebook page. Check them out and come on out to one of their games!