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In this league it is okay to throw like a girl


When the women leading the call for women's rights met at Seneca Falls and "resolved that all laws which prevent woman from occupying such a station in society as her conscience shall dictate," was football at the top of their lists? If it was, they have finally reached their goal: a Women's National Football League. Eleven teams spanning seven states make up this new league of women athletes. Women playing football? That's right! The WPFL is an all-female, full-contact, tackle football league with one year under its belt, poised and ready for the upcoming season.

For most full-time employees, after a full day at work, spending hours talking on the phone, running around the office, it is time to go home, relax, and have dinner. However, this is not the typical day for Monty Shepardson, associate director of the Yale College Annual Fund. After a grueling day at work, Monty travels to Long Island to play on one of the11 teams, the Long Island Sharks.

The first season of the WPFL came to an exciting end with a 39-7 win of the Houston Energy over the New England Storm in the first ever Women's Superbowl. Although Monty's team did not make the Superbowl, it did make the playoffs and lost in what Monty called "a heartbreaker." Everyone on the Sharks has an offensive and defensive position. "My offensive position is fullback, which is a running back, but I usually play my defensive position, which is linebacker," Monty says with a smile on her face.

For most of the women on these teams, this is their first real exposure to football. Unlike the NFL, there are no feeder programs; women are not playing football in high school or college. Monty has always had an interest in football but never played herself because she was a swimmer and member of the track team in high school. As she explains, "I was never interested in the traditional sports like lacrosse or field hockey," but the emotion and intensity of football were always intriguing.

The women play a style of football called Wing-T, developed by men's college football and also used widely in the NFL. This style depends more on a balanced approach as opposed to relying on individual players. Since many of the women have not played before, it is an easy style to teach and also extremely effective.

The physical contact of tackle football is definitely a concern, however, as Monty explains excitedly, "I love the physicality of the game, it really is not as dangerous as they

say." She did suffer from this love, with three broken fingers and a broken wrist last year. All of the members of the league have full-time jobs off the field since it is costing most of the players to play in addition to having to cover traveling expenses. "It is a big sacrifice, driving down, two, three, four times a week for two and a half hours, but I wouldn't give it up for the world."

Although the first season culminated successfully in the Superbowl, there were some organizational problems. All 11 teams were told to raise a given amount with advanced ticket sales and advertisements. However, not all teams were able to raise the money, and the league ended up making up the difference. Yet Monty is encouraged that the league will build upon the success of the first year with some restructuring and hopefully the league will come out stronger.

There is new management for the coming year, along with a $1 million investment from a new group to help the league "get off on the right foot." One of the major changes occurring this year is the moving of the season from the fall to the summer. "It was difficult to generate new fans with the cold, rain, and wind and the competition with professional, college and high school football," Monty says. However, the Sharks did have a loyal following, including their number-one fan who followed them across the country displaying the team's colors on his bare chest.

The general consensus of the league was that the first season was a good starting block for years to come. The Sharks play their first game of this coming season on July 21. As Monty says, "the time has come for Professional Women's Football." Hopefully the second season will bring the WPFL a fan base that it needs to stay alive.

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