Today marks in important day: International Women’s Day. Across Britball and football across the world, huge steps are taken to increase awareness of the women’s game, and women’s involved in football. From refs, to coaches (including our very own Coach Kate), to managers, to players – women are continuing in strides.
There are so many reasons that women join American football, and there are so many ways it changes our lives, motivates us, empowers us. Here are a few of the Valkyries and what American Football (and being a woman) means to them.
Katherine (QB, Receiver)
I joined the Cardiff Valkyries about 18 months ago, and it has been one of the best decisions. At first, it was just for a team sport, something to keep me motivated and give me purpose to the (bare minimum) running I was doing. It became so much more than that! I was inspired to start lifting weights for the first time (and ditch the running) and started feeling like my body has purpose. I realised that I am strong and powerful, and my body can do so much for me. Through both football and lifting heavy things, I learned to love parts of my body that I had previously struggled to accept.
Being a woman in sport makes me feel strong and empowered. I have a huge sense of achievement in playing well, and huge level of pride watching the women around me succeed in the sport and learn the strength and power of their bodies. For me, American Football is unique in bringing this to women: we require players that range in shapes and sizes meaning those who have previously been characterised as “unsporty” or “not athletic” have a place on the field where they can demonstrate their individual strengths
Ruth (QB, Corner, Receiver)
Empowered has become the phrase of the year in many respects. By the very definition of the word it is something given not taken or created for oneself. So, who gives empowerment, and can we give it to ourselves? I’ve often wondered if I, myself, feel empowered. And what does it mean? Do I have power and authority? In some aspects yes. In football, I recently took a turn as QB and began calling my own plays. I, ultimately, could influence (but not completely control) how the play would pan out.
The catch, of course, is that as humans we have a habit of using and abusing power (see the History of the Patriarchy), so how do we avoid falling into that trap? The answer, is to empower someone else. to borrow a phrase, ‘Aligned Autonomy’ i.e. we’re heading in the same direction but how we get there is up to you. In football, as a QB I asked my team in the huddle, “What play do you want?” At first I was met with blank stares, for which I would fill in the gap but as the game went on players would come to the huddle with input and suggestions as they’d seen gaps and openings that I hadn’t. We worked together and made great gains – we’re getting in that endzone and we’re going together. There was also a time when I had to identify when a player didn’t feel empowered:
“Were you open on that last play?”
She was wide open but I could see the look in her eye that said ‘Don’t pass to me’. OK. Next time. As the game went on she came into the huddle after the ball fell incomplete “I’m open.” I took a mental note: Empower others who are ready for it.
Make 2020 the year that you become motivated to empower others and you may just find that you give yourself the power & authority to empower yourself.
Rachel (Corner, Receiver)
It gives me such a sense of purpose being involved in a sport but especially a team sport and a women’s team even more!! High school is a long time ago and I’m a mum of 3 now – watched my children many times in the last 20 years.
You forget that you’re more than a Mum a lot of the time but as much as I love my children, I forget that I am when its training or game day!!
Zoe J (Linebacker, Lineman)
I’ve had many years struggling, never feeling like a fit into a category of ‘right’. This was mostly on how I looked, with low self esteem being a huge battle for so long. But being in this amazing sport empowers me year in year, year out. There is so much more to my body that what it looks like. There is so much my body can do that I didn’t realise was possible. American football, this team, has saved my life, and I encourage every girl and woman out there to try something new, try something different. It’s never too late to make a change and to get out there and show yourself and the world what you are made of.
In the last few years of football I’ve learned some incredible things, but it’s also given me confidence outside of the team. I’ve learned to have a voice, I’ve learned to speak my opinion, I’ve learned that making mistakes is okay, but not speaking in fear of rejection isn’t.
Women can be agile, tough, terrifying, skilled, fast, powerful. Women know the game. Women are the game. We are American footballers – period.
The last six weeks with the Valkyries changed my life. From the physical health, to the mental resilience of taking my first big hit, only to get back up and do it all over again 30 seconds later. Playing… how well is debatable, a tournament after just three training sessions and being part of a team winning their first game on home soil is something I’ll never forget. The best bit of all, I feel like I’ve gained a second family – I may have grown to like being referred to as a ‘Rookie’, but aside from ability, I certainly don’t feel like one. Make sure you follow our team and be inspired, like I have, by this incredible group of women. I promise you won’t regret it.