Monthly Archives: June 2006

Wichita Welcomes Women’s Football

Our publicist, Merle Exit, continues to put women’s tackle football on the treasure map, as the New York Sharks display was unveiled at the Museum of World Treasures in Wichita on Saturday, November 4, 2006 along with the official announcement that the museum would house the IWFL Football Hall of Fame.

Sharks players, Diana Gonzalez and Jen Blum flew down for the event as Jen’s father, Malcolm accompanied them in his usual supportive style. Members of the local media were on hand to interview the two wide receivers as well as getting some insight from Merle and remarks from a proud dad.

As the public and Museum of World Treasures board sat waiting the unveiling, Director of Sales Lon Smith approached the podium and spoke highly of the achievements of the New York team. He continued to address the importance of women’s football and being a part of a facility that already housed great sports memorabilia.

After Jen, Diana, Merle and Malcolm each voiced their enthusiasm, Lon presented a framed Certificate of Appreciation signed by Michael K. Noller, the museum’s President and CEO. In Merle’s remarks she pointed out the team’s winning streak, NFL JPD Program, then emphasized that no player can achieve greatness without a team as no team can exist without a league.

The exhibit was revealed with much applause. What originally began as a display featuring a framed collage of photos and a signed football, grew as owner Andra Douglas had submitted a photo taken at the Women’s Sports Foundation annual dinner as well as her jersey. Lon chose several action shots that were placed above and in the display case creating an extremely impressive presentation.

In addition a CD depicting highlights of the 2006 season was set up on a “loop” and shown on a monitor which will allow the public to experience the action of both the New York Sharks as well as other teams of the IWFL.

At the end of the ceremony, Jen and Diana sat for autographs while everyone enjoyed a slice of “Shark Cake”. The cake, brought out by Lon’s wife Sherri and daughter Kelsey, had both the Sharks’ insignia as well as an action photo.

Later that evening Jen, Diana, Malcolm and Merle were treated to a great dinner at the nearby Larkspur restaurant. Joining them was: Michael K. Noller; founders Jon and Lorna Kardatzke; and the Coleman company’s Director of Global Continuous Improvement, Steve Moore. The celebration party continued to a further celebration of Karaoke at the Best Western Motel.

What had Diana have to say about the whole experience? “We were treated and given the respect NFL players would have been given. Lon Smith, director of sales and whom we dealt with most of the time, was great! He is pro-feminist and share’s many of the ideals to excel women’s athletics. The presentation at the museum was great. Several channels were there and this is the type of publicity that our league needs. Lon seemed excited about the relationship with the IWFL as a whole but also is making big efforts to push women in football to the public. More importantly, I’ve realized how crucial it is for us as players to maintain an image and work hard to be role models for other young ladies. I hope we can get the recognition we deserve to inspire others and make this team and league big!”

The New York Sharks would like to thank: James Dockery for both his great photos and collage design; Merle Exit for both photo submissions and selections; and Rachid Bouchik of Omega Art & Framing at The Shops At Atlas Park for donating his framing.

Women Tackling a Passion

Edge Boston

Canton, Ohio is noted for their main attraction, the Pro Football Hall of Fame. My journey through areas of Ohio brought me into the famed Fame as I searched for an exhibit on women’s tackle football. There wasn’t any. The reason, I was told, was that there are no women’s football teams that are “Pro,” like the NFL.

I was, however, welcome to send information, photos and any team gear that would be filed into their archives for which (upon request) one could view them at the library. Having been involved with publicity for the New York Sharks since 2002, I was more than happy to do so.

The curator soon informed me about a new display case entitled “Recent Acquisitions,” a glassed enclosure that would be changed regularly. If I were to obtain an IWFL football signed by the team, would they be willing to have it on exhibit? In October of 2005, that football sat for all to see and became the first item from a women’s tackle football to ever be displayed at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Although I may be proud of my accomplishment, why did it take so long for women’s football to have this (temporary) acknowledgement?

It is the summer of 2002 when I learned that the New York Sharks women’s pro football team clinched the IWFL Championship game in Oregon. In New York, the media is focused on a Little League baseball team in the Bronx, that didn’t win. A team of players who are passionate about their sport comes home to a city void of accolades, indicative of the attitude towards women playing tackle football.

I first became aware of any women’s tackle football team that season and as a journalist writing for a local newspaper there was not much that I could do to get the word out. An email went out to the players with an apology from the owner, Andra Douglas, saying that the budget would not allow a big championship celebration. I asked where the ultimate place would be to have it and she replied, “Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant”. After a few phone calls, I got back to her and said, “You got it. Two hours. Free food, cash bar.”

The next step was for me to get them their accolades: congratulatory letters from Senators Hilary Clinton and Charles Schumer along with the presence of New York City’s Sports Commissioner, and a letter from the mayor.

Believe it or not, there are three women’s tackle football leagues in the country, with the IWFL having over 30 teams at present that even includes one from Montreal. The New York Sharks are just and example of one team composed of women who (unlike their male counterparts) have not learned to play football in high school or college, have full time jobs, oftentimes have children, and must shell out as much as $1000 for the season in order to fulfill their passion.

The expenses cover hired staff including coaches, physicians, and referees. Football fields have to be rented for both games and practice. Add to that the cost of travel and uniforms. Owners are hoping to see the season ending in “the black” by ticket sales, fundraisers, sales of team logo items and sponsors.

Andra Douglas grew up in Florida and was only privy to rugby and after school football in the grassy fields. Having moved to New York for her graduate work, she joined a flag football team in Brooklyn. It was a challenge from a tackle football team that gave them their first win, and Andra a chance at what she really wanted; a new life hoping to see her dream as a reality. It got even more heartfelt when she purchased her own team in August of 2000, continuing to play for other leagues. As the IWFL was formed in 2002, Andra made the decision to be a part of that league and in all cases taking on the position of quarterback. She finally retired last season at the age of 46, also having made to substitute for the kicker position as well.

As a heavy contact sport, players are prone to greater injuries, which may effect their source of income. It doesn’t stop them. Let’s call it Football Fervor. Many of the players keep themselves in shape by working out at the gym or running every day. They have to. The season schedule begins at the end of February with tryouts and mini-camps. As the first April game approaches, the New York Sharks practice three times per week, including a strenuous series of exercises just to loosen up for the moves.

Along with the physical is the mental challenge of learning and retaining the plays provided by the coach. It’s still unusual to have a woman as the head coach, since not enough years have gone by for players to become coaches. Surprisingly, the New York Sharks found a woman, Debbie Vance, who had an excellent record coaching a boys Junior Varsity high school football team and for the 2006 season hired both her and her coaching staff.

Where is the team going? What are Ms. Douglas’ goals? Last year the team was met by 60,000 screaming fans as they were afforded the opportunity of an eight minute scrimmage during half time at Giants Stadium in Rutherford, New Jersey. Although it didn’t create a heavy dent in regards to future game attendance it did lead to having the NFL approaching the Sharks about starting a Junior Development Player program for girls.

This program will have the Sharks scouring high schools in the tri-state area recruiting girls ages 14-17 for a camp to be held in the late summer and coached by some of the Sharks players. The idea is to use the camp as a feeder system in order to participate when the girls turn 18.

In 2003, Andra looked to further the future of team sports by becoming the CEO of the FINS UP! Foundation, which has a strong outreach mission designed to create and support sports programs that build self-esteem and promote a fit lifestyle free of substance abuse in all forms, childhood obesity and gang/criminal activities.

The Foundation also funds girls sports teams, conducts sports camps that teach the fundamentals of team sports and sportsmanship, offers expertise to local high school girls’ athletic programs, provides professional female athletics, coaches and corporate executives to speak at schools and partners with charities that focus on health issues such as breast cancer, domestic violence, anorexia and obesity.

So, what’s the 2006 season been like for the New York Sharks? They’ve gone up against the Indianapolis Chaos (73-0), Delaware Griffins (48-0) (47-0) Manchester Freedom (20-0), Southern Maine Rebels (55-0), Montreal Blitz (53-7) (42-27) and Bay State Warriors (24-16). This puts them in the playoffs and keeps their regular season winning streak to 47 games.

Saturday, July 8th begins the playoff games, when the New York Sharks take on the Miami Fury and the Bay State Warriors battle the Atlanta Explosion. Although New York defeated Boston, there is the possibility that the two teams will go head to head a second time vying for the Eastern Conference Championship.

-by Merle Exit

Delaware 0 @ New York 48

Brooklyn, New York, May 6, 2006
In women’s football you have to fast on your feet, not only on the playing field but off as well. When the Delaware Griffins (0-1) lost their field due to commencement ceremonies at their home field, both teams scrambled to find a replacment venue. Delaware graciously accepted an offer from the Sharks to have the game in New York. The game was played at Brooklyn but not at the Sharks usual home field of Midwood, this time it was held at Brooklyn Tech High School.

Pat Brown and Dave MaxwellWith about a week to get things set-up for game day, the new venue turned out well and the game went off without a hitch. The Sharks broadcast team also had to improvise by calling the game from the rooftop of the school next to the field.

It was a beautiful day in the city with the sun shining brightly and nary a cloud in the sky. Game time temperature was in the low 70’s.

The game began with the Sharks winning the coin toss again, but for the second straight week, Coach Vance chose to have the Sharks start the game on defense. It turned out to be a good move as the New York defense stuffed the Griffins running game on their first possession and forced them to punt the ball away.

It is still early in the season and word has not yet gotten out about Adrienne Smith. The rookie is starting to become a return speciailist extraordinaire. It did not start well as she fumbled the punt at mid-field. She then started to run down the right sideline but was soon met by 3 Griffins defenders who seemed to tackle her but did not bring her down. She quickly shed the tacklers and ran to her left, with blockers in front of her she ran all the way over to the left side of the field and ran into the endzone. But the play was called back as there was an illegal block in the back penalty on the play. It was a bad penalty for the Sharks to make as the block came just after Smith ran past the defender. It would have been Smith’s third punt return for a touchdown this season.

The penalty put the ball on the Delaware 17-line for the Sharks. It didn’t take long for the Sharks to get on the scoreboard as they gave the ball to Kathy Holloman and she ran it in for a touchdown with 11:17 left in the first quarter. The extra point attempt went wide but the Sharks were in the lead, 6-0.

New York’s defense again stopped the Griffins on 3 plays and forced them to punt. This time the punt bounced past Smith and she wisely fell on it, giving the Sharks the ball on their own 42-yard line. The first play in the series was a hand-off to Mandy Oppel who busted through for a nice 6 yard gain. But an off-side penalty by New York sent the ball back 5 yards. Karen Mulligan who is a veteran but in her first year as quarterback tried to throw the ball on second down, but could not find anyone open. With the pocket collapsing, she took off and picked up 7 yards. The ball was resting at midfield with the Sharks needing 2 yards for a first down or 50 yards for a touchdown. New York got the latter as Mulligan ran to her left with Holloman trailing her. With the threat of a track star behind her, Delaware hesitated a bit about going after the quarterback and that was enough to allow Mulligan to get some blocking and run the ball all the way into the endzone. To make up for the missed extra point, the Sharks went for the 2 point conversion and Mulligan tossed the ball back to Yumi Warner who ran the ball into to make the score 14-0 with 4:14 left in the first quarter.

The Griffins could not do too much on their possession. The highlight for the Sharks was Amber Knighten crashing through the line for her second sack of the day. She got to the quarterback almost as soon as the center snapped the ball.

On their third possession, New York showed that they can grind out a score too. On an 11 play drive, the Sharks started on their own 36-yard line and marched down the field for their third touchdown of the day. The highlights was a 19-yard run on fourth day by Holloman and a 14-yard run by Vivian Alberty. The scoring play was a 4-yard touchdown run by Mulligan who took off when she couldn’t find an open receiver. Emily Pelletier kicked the extra point after bouncing the ball off the left goal post to extend the Sharks’ lead 21-0.

New York’s next score came after a fumble recovery. With the ball on the Sharks’ 42-yard line, Mulligan ran to her right with Holloman following. After gaining 8-yards, Mulligan tossed the ball back to the trailing Holloman who then used her speed to tiptoe down the sideline for another New York score. Pelletier missed badly on the extra point attempt but with only 1:36 left in the first half, the Sharks were well ahead 27-0.

In the second half it was again all Sharks as they picked up 3 more touchdowns in the third quarter. The first one was on a 90-yard drive which was capped by a nice 15-yard run by Warner. Pelletier who was shakey during the first part of the game seemed to have made some adjustments and hit the ball squarely through the uprights.

Junko TanidaThe next score came within 2 minutes of the previous score as the Sharks recovered the ensuing kick-off. The Griffins had some difficulty picking up the ball and the Sharks recovered on the Delware 46-yard line. From there it was the Mulligan-Tandia show. Granted it was a very short show as Mulligan hit receiver Junko Tanida twice, the last one was a nice diving catch in the endzone for a 26-yard strike. Pelletier again split the uprights with authority to make the score 41-0.

Emily PelletierThe last touchdown of the game for the Sharks came with 2:02 left in the third quarter as Warner rumbled for 18 yards for her second touchdown of the day. Pelletier hit her third straight extra point to make the final score 48-0.

New York had picked up their second straight win of the season and second straight shutout. This extended the Sharks regular season winning streak to a record 41 games. More importantly it was a win against a division opponent and gives New York sole possession of first place.

The offensive game ball was given to Warner for her 2 touchdown runs and the defensive game ball was given to Blessing Withers whose presence was felt by the entire Delaware front line.

The Sharks next game will be this Saturday as they host the Manchester Freedom, led by Olympic hockey star Katia Pashkevitch. This will be a good test for the young team as this will be their first test against a team with a winning record. So come on down to Midwood High School field to see the Sharks try to make history by extending their regular season winning streak to 42 games. Kick-off time is 3pm and if you can’t make it to the park, Pat Brown and Dave Maxwell will describe all of the action on our flagship radio station WFN Radio – the Women’s Football Network.

1 2 3 4 Final
Delaware Griffins 0 0 0 0 0
New York Sharks 14 13 21 0 48

Scoring Summary
First Quarter
NY – (09:26) Holloman 17 yard run (kick failed)
NY – (04:14) Mulligan 50 yard run (Warner run)

Second Quarter
NY – (09:00) Mulligan 4 yard run (Pelletier kick)
NY – (01:36) Holloman 50 yard run (kick failed)

Third Quarter
NY – (08:42) Warner 15 yard run (Pelletier kick)
NY – (07:09) Tanida 26 yard pass from Mulligan (Pelletier kick)
NY – (00:08) Warner 18 yard run (Pelletier kick)