Tackling One’s Passion

Tulsa’s Threat and Oklahoma City’s Lady Force fulfill women’s dreams of playing semi-professional football.

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Photo courtesy Tulsa Talons.

Photo courtesy Tulsa Talons.

They are school teachers, stay-at-home moms, welders, sheriff’s deputies and more, but they are also football players – women fulfilling their dream to play.

The mission of both the Women’s Extreme Football League (WXFL) and the Independent Women’s Football League (IFL) is to give women the opportunity to participate in full-contact tackle football.

Most female players were often told as children that girls don’t play football. According to Mindy Littlefield, general manager of the Tulsa Threat, playing the game is a goal for many. “One of our players said that she played street football growing up in her neighborhood, and when she was approached to play for the Threat, she said it was a dream come true,” Littlefield says. “She also said that the relationships that she has gained since joining the team mean the world to her. They are her family, and she has learned a lot from them on and off the field.”

The love for football has no boundaries. It doesn’t matter what race, sex, age, religion, or nationality you are.”

The Tulsa Threat is the only 11-a-side women’s football team in Oklahoma. The team travels the United States to play games in the IWFL, which has more than 30 teams. The travel ranges from Texas to Iowa. The Threat is a player-owned team, which means a lot more work for the women who play. Littlefield also mentioned it can be difficult to obtain sponsorships, which can be crucial.

“Each woman helps get sponsorships and sells tickets, merchandise or apparel,” Littlefield says. “This helps with our game-day expenses as well as our travel. We also carpool to games.

“We have struggled with sponsors, but we will continue to work to bring in fans and sponsors and get our name out there to be nationally known.”

You will find the Tulsa Threat on the field at the Memorial High School stadium in Tulsa from April to mid-June. The schedule will become available in 2017.

Nicole Gates, former owner of the Oklahoma Lady Force, agrees with Littlefield about women in football. The Lady Force, based in Oklahoma City, is part of the WXFL.

“Women have the same passion as men do,” Gates says. “The love for football has no boundaries. It doesn’t matter what race, sex, age, religion, or nationality you are; as a matter of fact, it doesn’t matter what financial situation or personal problems you might be going through. Football is a great release of everyday life stressors. The moment you are on the field, life struggles go away, and all you can think about is getting your next touchdown or completing your next pass or punishing a quarterback.”

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Like the members in the IWXL, women and coaches in the WXFL have full-time jobs, which makes it difficult to find sponsorships. That doesn’t stop the league from growing. “When the league started there were only three teams, and it grew to five, and in 2017, there will be 12 teams total in the league,” Gates says.

Despite the growth, Gates mentions other challenges for the teams.

“The biggest challenge is finding females with experience who want to play full-contact football,” Gates says. “Also, not every female is built to play this sport.

“It can also be difficult finding a home game field. There are some semi-pro men’s teams that have given semi-pro football a bad name, which has limited the amount of available football fields around the metro.”

As a former player, Gates has a lot to say about women in football and why they play. It stems from a general love of the game, but it is more than that to many women..

“When I played, I played for the excitement of the game, the thrill of being down by a touchdown in the fourth quarter and making a big play that helps your team win,” she says. “I assume everyone has their reasons, but no matter the reason, for most of these men and women who play semi-pro ball, football is a big part of their lives. Women football players build lifelong friendships, not only with their teammates but often with their opponents as well. Women’s football is a unique sisterhood, a large family of women who support each other. The connections made between players are bonds that often last a lifetime.”

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