Oklahomans love their football -- especially college football or peewee football. We can't get enough of the game. The Tulsa Threat, an all-women's tackle football team, is here to break down gender barriers, wreck havoc on the football field and show football fans what they are made of.
Here's a bit of the back story of how the Tulsa Threat became the Tulsa Threat. Back in 2010, the team was known as the Tulsa Eagles. After a disastrous 2010 season, the Eagles went back to the drawing board and reinvented themselves. "The Tulsa Threat was established in 2011, but was organized as the Tulsa Eagles in 2010," said the Threat's Defensive Coordinator, Patrick Turner.
"The previous owner released the team back to the players and in an effort to revamp, the team now has a new look, name, coaching staff and players," Turner said. The Threat will have some familiar faces out on the field. Ashley Moran will return as quarterback and Stephanie Fowble will again play fullback and linebacker. Some football players would have a hard time transitioning from one team to another, but not these ladies.
To go through a lot of changes in one season can be difficult, but with experienced coaches and veteran players guiding the way, change can be a good thing. "The coaching staff this season is providing more structured coaching from A to Z," Turner said. "We started with how to tackle, how to get into a stance and how to catch a football with correct technique."
The Threat is part of the Women's Football Alliance (WFA), which is a full-contact football league, and they have similar rules to the National Football League (NFL). "We play NFL rules, with only two exceptions: the league uses NCAA overtime rules instead of sudden death, and the receiver or defensive back is only required to have one foot inbounds on a catch instead of two," Turner said.
"Our games are played during the football drought when the only football being played is the Spring Drills at the universities. We will be playing our games from April to June, offering full length football game to fans who just love to watch football." The Threat plays eight regular-season games through June 16, when they'll face the Lone Star Mustangs. The Threat's home games take place April 28 (Tribe), May 19 (Dynasty), June 2 (Outlaws) and June 9 (Wildcats). "Our first two games are on the road to Austin and Memphis April 14 and April 21," said Turner. The WFA consists of sixty-two teams that span the United States and Mexico.
The team is comprised of thirty-two female players ranging in age from 18 to 42. These ladies not only work hard on the field, but they also work hard off the field. "Our players hold various jobs," Turner said.
"One player works building buses at the bus plant, another works for Bama Pie, two of our players are computer programmers and one player is a Mazzio's manager."
While some teams in the WFA have the luxury of not having to pay for their equipment or travel expenses, the same cannot be said of the Threat. "The players are not paid," Turner said. "They play because it has always been a dream or perhaps just a wish for them to play football.
"I am not worried about how the girls look and play because they are great. My biggest concern is fundraising. The team raises all of its funds for travel, uniforms, stadium and game day expenses through private and corporate sponsorships and fundraising. All of our fundraisers are listed on our website. Our most notable upcoming fundraiser is a golf tournament scheduled on May 5 at Battle Creek Golf Club."
Fundraising may be a concern for the coaches, but they are not concerned about the players' drive for the game. "Our running game is where we hang our hat because we want to control the game, the clock, the physicality, and the ball," Turner said.
After learning more about the team, I quickly realized why the Threat depends on the running game: It's the majority of their offense and they want a lot of players to contribute to the play. Not only will the running back touch the ball, but the fullback will too. Moran, their quarterback, has some swift feet that could break a couple defensive tackles' necks.
"We are going to put the best product on the field because we will have the best eleven girls on the field," Turner said. "Those that have taken the challenge and learned how to be physical will be the ones getting playing time. Just like guys, you earn your playing time on the practice field."
For some of the Threat players, playing football has always been a dream. There are critics out there that believe women should not play football. I, too, was skeptical because football is extremely hard on a player, physically and mentally. Why would anyone, especially a woman, want her body being knocked around and risk serious injury?
Yes, football has always been considered a male-only sport, but those times are changing. While more and more women these days are able to play football in high school or college, the players on the Threat weren't allowed to play football. To fill that void, some turned to flag football while others thought their dream would never happen.
Thanks to the WFA, the Lingerie Football League and several other women's tackle football leagues, women are finally able to play a sport they love. If the players on the Threat were scared and weren't serious about football, they wouldn't spend their hard earned money on cleats and pads.
Throughout history, women have battled in wars, duels and prizefights. During medieval times, women would use every means necessary to protect their family and their land, while their husbands were away. Joan of Arc -- at 17 -- commanded an entire army of a nation. Whether a battle is taking place on a football field or a battlefield, women were warriors then and still are today.
Before you make jokes, give the Tulsa Threat a chance. You've heard of the saying, "Don't knock it 'til you try it", right? Well, before you assume the worst about women playing football, go watch and see for yourself. These ladies have put a lot hours, blood, sweat and tears into this team and all they ask from football fans is to give them a shot.
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