The only difference from usual football fare? The first names of the QB and wideout are Louise and Alyssa, and in the crowd, there is the occasional T-shirt bearing the slogan, “Real men watch women play football.”
“It’s high school speed football,” Blitz head coach Greg Cover notes. “You can’t even tell they’re women until they take off their helmets.”
The Blitz are playing their inaugural season in the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA), a 40-team league with squads spanning the nation. Utah hosts teams from, and travels to play in, cities like Portland , Ore., and Las Vegas as part of its seven-game schedule. The idea for the team was created in September 2009 by four founders: Chrystle Kerfoot, Brooke Perkins, Concetta Defa and Judy Rich. The group had been having a difficult time finding enough players for a smaller indoor-league football team for occasional exhibition games, so they were surprised at the response they got and how quickly things have moved.
Less than a year later, the team has a roster of 50 players ages 20-44 who practice or attend film sessions four nights a week under the guidance of a six-man volunteer coaching staff, most of whom have worked at the high school level. The team has raised enough money for bus trips and hotels for road games, and the Blitz home opener drew 900 paying fans.
“We dreamed of it,” Kerfoot says, “but I don’t know if we thought we could do it until after it actually happened.”
“It blows us away,” Perkins says. “We keep getting more e-mails from women saying they want to play. They’re coming out of the woodwork. It’s so cool because it’s such a variety of people.”
The variety is important to the players, who want to point out the team is made up of diverse religious and gender orientations. Defensive lineman Vanessa Conrad notes that a Blitz linebacker is not only her teammate but also her life partner, and they are one of several couples on the team. However, she quickly adds, “We have a lot of different kinds of people on this team: gay, straight, LDS, mothers. Anytime anybody hears it’s a women’s football team, they think it must just be a bunch of lesbians, but it’s not.”
Regardless of their backgrounds or preferences, a common goal of the team, expressed by Perkins, is to “open up doors to the game for younger girls that we didn’t have.”
In terms of athletic background, a common experience among the players is of growing up playing street or sandlot football with brothers and always wanting to try the real thing in full padding. Others are athletes who are looking for a new challenge. Some, like Ingrid Romero, are completely new to any sort of game. “I’d never done any sports. I did ballroom dance in high school,” the new offensive guard says. When she told friends and family she was going to play football, “They laughed and didn’t believe me.” However, once she put on the pads, “I loved it. You get to hit and you don’t get in trouble for it.”
Cover notes that the lack of playing experience is not necessarily a bad thing from a coach’s perspective. “We don’t have to re-teach,” he says. “They haven’t had time to develop bad habits. It’s all brand new. They all have four months of playing experience, and they’re ahead of where we thought they’d be.”
The WFA plays by NFL rules, and players wear the same equipment the guys do, although “sometimes we wish it was different padding,” player Marian Eckley jokes.
Now that the team has five games under its belt, listening to Blitz players talk about why they enjoy playing the game doesn’t sound much different from what you’d hear from a team filled with Y chromosomes.
“Once I got started, it became my passion,” Conrad says. “I love how physical the game is. I love the camaraderie. I love learning from the coaches. Even when we’re doing gassers and I’m ready to throw up, I love football.”
Spoken like a true football player.
UTAH BLITZ VS. LAS VEGAS SHOWGIRLZ
Granger High School
3690 S. 3600 West
Saturday, May 22