I never thought I’d play football. After all, football isn’t for girls! At least that’s what society has always told us. Sure, we can play soccer, or basketball, or softball. Those are girls sports. But football’s just for boys, right? Wrong! Believe it or not, there are over one hundred women’s semi-professional full-contact football teams across the United States playing in three main leagues: the IWFL, the WFA, and the WSFL. There’s even a team right here in Central Pennsylvania, the Keystone Assault.
Women’s tackle football came to Harrisburg in 2005. In 2008, the Keystone Assault was formed by veteran players, a coach, and a volunteer, who decided to create stability for the new team by forming a five-member voting board to run it. Spring 2009 was the first season for the Keystone Assault and the team ended with a 4-4 record. In 2012, the Assault won their first division championship. The team ended the 2013 regular season 7-1. This past season the Assault ended with an 8-0 undefeated record! The Keystone Assault has made great strides since our inaugural season, making playoff appearances, having several players on All-American Team Rosters, and continuing to make history for women’s football in Central PA.
The Keystone Assault is a member of the Women’s Spring Football League (WSFL). We play teams such as the Baltimore Burn, the West Virginia Wildfire, and the New York Knockout, and much like our competition, we are funded only by player dues, fundraising, and sponsorships. Our ultimate goal is to be victorious throughout the regular season and playoffs to become the 2015 WSFL Champions.
The 2015 Keystone Assault roster is very diverse. We are women with careers: teachers, lawyers, engineers, social workers, train directors, state and county employees, sales reps, cashiers, high school and college students, and more. Several of my teammates are mothers, and we even have a few grandmothers. While we all come from different backgrounds and career paths, we all have one thing in common: we have a passion for the game of football. We have broken a stereotype. We are tackling our dreams.
Playing women’s football certainly comes with some funny looks and crazy questions. Here’s what a typical conversation might sound like with someone who just found out I play football:
Them: “What do you do for fun?”
Me: “Oh, I play women’s full-contact semi-pro football!”
Them: “Is it real football?”
Me: “Yes, it’s real football!”
Them: “Like the underwear league?”
Me: “No way!”
Them: “Oh, you mean flag football?”
Me: “No, its full-contact.”
Them: “So do you play with boys?”
Me: “No, it’s all girls.”
Them: “Do you wear pads?”
Them: “Like helmets and shoulder pads and stuff?”
Me: “Yes, everything the boys wear!”
Them: “So, do you like actually hit and tackle each other?”
Me: “Yes, just like the football you watch on TV!”
Them: “Wow, you’re crazy!”
And it goes from there. Many people are completely surprised to learn women’s football exists and are even more surprised to discover that we have had teams in the Harrisburg area for the past nine years! While the questions we are asked can definitely make us chuckle, we realize how important it is to advocate for our sport and to show our communities what their local women are capable of, both on and off of the field. Each year, support our communities through volunteering with local youth. We hope to instill a drive in our sisters, cousins, daughters, granddaughters, nieces, friends, neighbors, and girls from around the mid-state that they too, can accomplish their goals and dreams, no matter their age or gender.
The biggest question we are asked is why we decided to play football in the first place. For me personally, I played basketball and softball from the time I was very young until I graduated from college. In the months and years after graduation, I found myself missing the competition, but mostly, I missed the camaraderie of a team. Many of my teammates will tell you the same thing. Even more will tell you that they decided to play women’s football because they finally had the opportunity to play the sport they have loved and watched since they were young. Stepping onto the field for the first time has been a dream come true for many past and present Assault players.
Five years ago, after learning about women’s football through the grapevine and being asked to play several times because of my tall, athletic build, I finally decided to give football a try. Let me tell you, I was terrified on my first day of tryouts. I hoped my athletic abilities would be enough to get me through, as I knew absolutely nothing about the game of football besides the basics. I begin my fifth season, now as a team owner, a team captain, and an All-American, I realize that the fear I once had is not only very common for rookies, but I am proof that it is quickly overcome.
Boys start playing football at a very young age and grow up learning and perfecting the game. In most cases, girls are not permitted to play on their high school football teams and do not have the opportunity to join a semi-pro team until their late teens. Talk about a delayed start. But all of the women who I’ve had the pleasure to play with and against over the past four years have certainly make up for this lost time. We owe this to our wonderful staff of dedicated, volunteer coaches who teach us everything we need to know, from the basic positions and stances, to proper tackling techniques, to different offensive and defensive formations. The ladies of the Keystone Assault work hard on the practice field three times a week, two to three hours each practice, and balance our time between our careers, our families, and the sport that we love. As I step foot onto the turf on Saturday for our first kick-off of the 2015 season, I am confident that my hard-working teammates and five passionate coaches have my back, and I know I certainly have theirs. We go into battle together, we work together, and we win together. The Keystone Assault truly is a family.
If you’d like to experience women’s full-contact football in Central PA and join the Keystone Assault family, come out to Lower Dauphin Middle School’s turf field, located at 251 Quarry Road in Hummelstown, to catch our four regular-season home games this spring! Please visit our brand new website, www.keystoneassault.net, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter where you can find our season schedule live, game updates, and more information about our team and players. We look forward to seeing you in the stands, watching us tackle our dreams, one hard hit at a time!
Christine Ross, #77
Director of Public Relations
Defensive End, Offensive Lineman, Special Teams