Did you play football as a kid? Did you wish you could be the quarterback dating the homecoming queen? Come on, admit it: Finn Hudson might be a tool but which one of us wouldn’t switch places with him, if only to be able to make out with all the ladies on Glee?
If your passion for football consists of more than wishing you could make out with the cheerleaders, there may be a league for you. While the National Football League’s off-season has been dominated by headlines about Peyton Manning’s free agency, Tim Tebow taking his penchant for prayer to dysfunction junction in New Jersey, and the bounty program run by the New Orleans Saints, another football league has been preparing for its 2012 season which starts April 7. This league features women, not in skirts and pom-poms, but in helmets and pads, and could feature you at tight end or wide receiver (if that’s your thing) next season.
The Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) is a league made up of over 60 teams that compete all over the country; there is probably a team in your neighborhood. Prior to 2011 when the current WFA was formed, there was an alphabet soup of women’s football leagues with top teams spread over the various leagues. Because they played in different leagues, the top teams never played each other. This changed after 2010, when the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) held its first women’s championship, which the U.S. won. At the competition the owners of many American teams got together and decided to consolidate the elite teams into one league so that they could compete against each other.
WFA spans the country but is able to keep costs relatively low, and to continue to thrive, by having teams play games against regional opponents rather than crisscross the country on expensive flights. In a sports climate in which the WPS has suspended its 2012 season and the WNBA is not exactly rolling in money, it is impressive to see such a large league of women’s teams be able to thrive and to expand.
The regular season runs from April until mid-June with each team playing eight games before the playoffs. While rosters are set for this season, if you like what you see on the field and want to play too, you should check in with your local team for information on try-outs for next year. Prior football experience is not required and many of the players were previously athletes in other sports who have come to play football because they love the sport, the competition, and the team environment that can be hard to find post-college.
If watching spandex-clad ladies tackle each other is more your speed than doing the tackling yourself, tickets for WFA regular season games are relatively inexpensive and games are both family and fan friendly. Players are accessible to fans, sign autographs, pose for pictures, and work hard to try to expand the sport both through setting a good example on the gridiron and through community service and other community based events throughout the year.
So, will you be checking out your local team this season? Will you be trying out next year in hopes of capturing the heart of your very own Cheerio?
(Thank you to Dawn Berndt, owner of the Dallas Diamonds for answering all of my questions for this article.)