You have to look closely to tell the difference with their helmets on, but the women of the Austin Outlaws play with every bit of enthusiasm on the gridiron as their male counterparts.
“It is a player’s sport, not a man’s sport or a women’s sport,” said Tanea Clay, a corner for the Outlaws.
The little known, but proud group of ball players finished up their Spring 2012 season this past weekend against the Houston Power. Despite losing 30-0, the Outlaws celebrated after the game with the Power and their fans.
The Austin Outlaws are one of 64 teams in the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA), a full-contact football league that has adopted most of the same rules as the NFL. The Outlaws, who operate out of Round Rock, are members of Division 12 in the American Conference. The Dallas Diamonds, Houston Power and Lone Star Mustangs are their division rivals.
The Women’s Football Alliance started in 2009 and just finished its fourth season. They field a regular 11-person contingent. The only difference between the NFL and the WFA is the size of the ball– the Alliance has adopted a smaller ball.
The Austin Outlaws was founded in 2001 as a member of the Independent Women’s Football League. The Outlaws have two division titles, one in 2001 and another in 2009, and a league Championship from 2001. They are represented by their mascot at games by Annie Outlaw, a pop-gun toting cowboy with a big sparkly hat.
Despite the intensity and physical exertion that accompanies a football game, the Outlaws were not afraid of contact – this is no powder puff football team.
“There is no time to be scared,” Clay said. “It is either hit them or get hit, and at the end of the day, you want to be the one to hit.”
Penalties were called, injuries were sustained and the crowd was rambunctious, everything you would expect from any other football game.
Roslyn Martin was a little hesitant at first to let her 5-foot-2 inch daughter Chantele Martin, a defensive back, play tackle football, but she still enjoys watching her daughter do something that she loves to do.
“She is really little and I was worried she would get roughed up,” Martin said. “It is still a little scary to watch, it doesn’t get better.”
The Outlaws finished the season 1-7, their lone win coming against The Tulsa Eagles in their season opener back in April. However, you wouldn’t know they held a losing record by talking to them. The team members reveled in the fact that they had an opportunity to play and were supportive of anyone wishing to join them.
“Go for it, there is nothing that you cannot do,” Clay said. “Anything you put your mind to– if you dream it, believe in it, you can do it. Nothing is stopping you, but you.”