I Deserve Respect

Being a female football player is hard, not the most shocking thesis to cross these pages. I’ve had a hard time figuring out how to really dive into it because there are so many different layers to the issue. Today really set me over the edge though, I have to speak up. I’m fucking sick of the lack of respect. I’m sick of the soullessness of other athletes. I’m fucking sick of being treated like shit.

Every sport I’ve ever played, I’ve played with intensity. Whether you like it or not, I’m an aggressive and tenacious player who takes pride in her defensive capabilities. If I had to classify myself as an athlete, I’m a defender at my core. I will protect what I need to protect in the best way I can. To be a good defender you HAVE to be aggressive. To be a great defender you have to be blood thirsty. I strive to be great.

There is a time and a place for everything. When I play in an LFL game, I have a different mentality than when I play in a CoEd flag football recreational league. Sure, I’m still going to try my best, but I am going to play my game differently. LFL is almost intimidating because there are no holds barred. It’s a primal version of football, you have to use whatever tools you have at your disposal.

I’ve done things in LFL that I’ve never done in my regular life. I have slapped a girl square across her helmet. I have yanked a woman’s body off of my quarterback and thrown her, I have pulled a girl by her bra strap to get ahold of her. I have shoved a girl to the ground repeatedly as hard as I could. And I’m still not even scratching the surface of what I’m sure I’ll do in years to come.

I’ve trained myself to restrict that mindset to LFL games. Granted, I signed up to play in a men’s only league so that I could hone my physicality in a way that feels “clean.” Well, that’s part of the reason. I also joined a men’s flag football league because I know I’m better than at least 80% of the men out there. For 3 of the 4 seasons I played in TUFF Men’s I was the league leader in sacks. I had one season where someone beat me, but he is a fucking boss and has shown me more respect than any other male opponent at my position. I’ll give him the recognition he deserves, Tim Taylor, you are a fucking unbelievable lunatic and I love playing on the same field as you.

Back to the men’s league thing. I’m better than most of the men out there. I know it’s hard to admit when a woman is better than you at something. I acknowledge that it’s a blow to your ego. Most of you have tolerated me pretty well, but the ones who can’t tolerate me are insecure about their own ability.

The first time I ever stepped on the men’s field I got laughed at by everyone I lined up across from. No one took me seriously, people on my own team didn’t think I was cut out for it. I had to suck it up and get back out there every single week. It was fucking scary. I felt afraid and insecure. But I pushed through it week after week because I loved it and I knew I was capable. I had something to prove.

When I play in a CoEd non-contact format, I like to work on things I’m normally too afraid to try because of the contact. One of the specific things I’ve been challenging myself to try is jumping routes and going for interceptions. I wanted to develop the instincts in CoEd so that when I got to tackle I would be able to brace for contact and the muscle memory would be strong.

Today I had the coolest interception of my entire career playing flag football. I was playing a rolling corner in a cover 3 scheme that Kaker designed specifically so that Dianne and I could lock down our side, baiting the guys into testing us.

The opposing quarterback sent a guy deep on my side almost every single play. I got torched deep on one of the first plays of the game. I was so pissed at myself that I vowed to make a play to redeem myself.

So when a lofty deep ball came to my side and I got great positioning on the ball, I fully extended my body to make the catch for the interception against the intended male target. Guess what? I caught the fucking ball and it was amazing, it was one of those moments as an athlete that takes your breath away. It was that feeling that keeps me coming out onto the field; the shocking realization of what my body is capable of.

But that male ego, it’ll get you.

The guy who I stole the ball from decided to bring me down to the ground. I’m not sure how exactly he did it, because I wasn’t expecting it AT ALL. I wasn’t expecting to be touched by anyone, I was elated that I got the ball back for my team.

But while I was in the air, he took my feet out from underneath me and I smacked the turf directly on my tailbone and hyperextended my hip-flexor. Unfortunately because I wasn’t in my tackle mindset, I didn’t brace myself for contact so my body didn’t take the fall very gracefully. I was in no way prepared to be hit the way that I was by the person who I was hit by.

It’s okay though, right? This is why we have referees to make sure we’re safe. At least they would give me credit for the interception, plus some additional yards for the offensive PI? I could easily go to the sideline and deal with the injury knowing that the obvious call would be made. The league prides itself on being “non-contact” something I have specifically been talked to about because of my aggressive tendencies.

No, if you thought I was speaking the truth in my last paragraph… You’re wrong. They called it an incomplete. The call on the field was “incomplete” because the ball popped out of my hands when I hit the ground. For the record, there are no fumbles in flag football. They didn’t acknowledge that I ever had possession of the ball.

One of the referees couldn’t see the play, but understood that there was unfair contact. The other referee from across the field, a woman, refused to acknowledge the interception. The other team, obviously having seen the entire thing knowing full well what had happened, said nothing. The man who dragged me to the ground? Said nothing.

I lost my mind. I told every person on the field to fuck themselves. I ripped my flags off and went over to my bag and cried by myself. Not even about the pain, but just the frustration. I’ve spent every game feeling like I had to prove myself more because I’m a woman. Because I’m a woman who is better than most of the guys. Objectively: I am taller, faster, stronger and smarter than most of the guys.

The ones who are better than me are the ones who respect me. It’s the weak ones who can’t let their ego accept the fact that a woman is torching them.

I’m not sorry for anything I said. I’m fully ashamed of the behavior I witnessed today on so many levels. I’m ashamed of what that CoEd football league has become. I’m ashamed that not a single person chose to acknowledge what they saw and do the right thing.

If I can’t prove myself to people who have seen me play for over a year now, how can I ever expect to prove myself to the general public? To the guy in my office who tells me I can’t have my boyfriend running my fantasy football team? To the man at the airport who asks me if I’m a volleyball player and then assumes I mean soccer when I tell him I play football? How the fuck am I supposed to reconcile that men get paid millions of dollars to play football while I can’t even expect to get people to watch unless I play in my bra and underwear?

Please tell me why I’m not supposed to be irate.

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