Friday, May 13, 2011
By Gavin Sheehan
on May 13, 2011, 4:00 AM
Football. And no, not the powder-puff leagues where they're fighting
for the honor of a beer company,or the lingerie league you see on
MTV2, we're talking full contact football played by all-women teams.
The Women's Football Alliance formed in 2008 out of a collection of
teams from various leagues and proceeded to expand across North
America by adding new teams into six regions. In 2010, Utah got its
own team called The Blitz, playing home games at Judge Memorial's
field to a surprising number of fans for their inaugural season. I
got a chance to chat with a couple of the players, including two of
the co-founders, as well as this year's head coach to chat about the
team as well as their thoughts on the WFA and the sport in
Defa, Chrystle Kerfoot, Chrisy Robinson, Angie England & David
Hello everyone, first thing, tell us a little bit about
I am 33 years old, a journeyman electrician with IBEW LU 354, and a
Nose Guard for the Utah Blitz. I am also one of the four co-founders
of the team. I grew up on a small family farm just outside of Magna and graduated from Cyprus High School.
I am forty years old, single and no children.
I am a single mother of an amazing 13 year old son, I work in the
training and education side of human resources for the government,
I’ve always been a Tomboy - which means I’ve pretty much been in
love with all sports in general and have had a push for more
adrenaline in my life.
How did each of you first become a fan of football and eventually
earn a love for the sport?
I always liked football, but after playing on a little league
baseball team and experiencing how I was treated by most of the boys
on the team (I was the only girl) I lost my drive to actually play
football. I didn't want to struggle through another team being an
outsider so instead I watched my cousins play football, I even became
a cheerleader for the Cyprus Little League Football team where one of
my cousins played (cheer leading really wasn't my thing). Football
quickly became a distant memory and I accepted that I would never
play the game other than with my friends in the back yard. My like
for football has always been here, my LOVE for football didn't come
until The Blitz.
I’ve played sports as long as I can remember but my true love has
always been football; my eyes have always been glued to the TV come
football season. I don’t recall the exact age I was when I first
recognized the pull to football, but it was early in my elementary
school years for sure. I always played football with the boys at
recess and backyard/flag football with my brothers and their friends
growing up – I even had a go at Powder Puff in High School. I’ve
followed the Washington Redskins since fifth grade and have even been
able to attend three of their games; I still maintain that there will
never be a cornerback who compares to Darrell Gree.
I grew up playing any time I could. I played with my nephews all the
time and neighbor kids. I have always loved and watched the game. My
favorite team is the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Starting off with you Dave, what was it like for you during your
career, and what influenced you to become a coach for youth
For me playing football was a way of life, there was discipline
both mentally and physically, sometimes when you didn’t want to go
to the three a days mid-hot muggy summer when everyone else was off
at the lake or somewhere else enjoying it and cooling down I would be
stuck in full pads sweating it out. You pay the price sometimes for
trying to make your dreams come true. The love for the game, I grew
up being a coaches’ son so I learned the game different than
others, I learned the do’s and don’ts and the why’s and how to
decipher the schemes that coaches are trying to do with plays from a
very young age of seven. My father used me as a learning tool if I
could understand then he knew others could understand.
You spent a lot of years in Nevada helping out young players and
even earned championships along the way. What would you say was the
biggest lesson you took from coaching all those years?
I learned to never coach down!!! If they don’t
understand, then its up to you as a coach to better yourself on
communication, so you can get it across to your players. A lot of
patients, not only with the players but with myself not all players
can be coaches and not all coaches can or were players. When it comes
to coaching you have to separate the two, you do not play you coach
they play period!!!!
For the players, how did each of you become involved with football
prior to joining the team?
I was playing an indoor eight man game and wanted to take my game play
to a more organized and competative level. It was awesome, finally
given the opportunity to play full contact football... just like the
guys, it has been my biggest dream fulfilled!
I had heard about a local team, the Avalanche, and of course with
having such a love for the game already – I knew I had to do it! I
attended one of their meetings and it was at this meeting where I was
approached by Chrystle Kerfoot with her intentions on taking football
to the next level in this area; to break out of the recreational
style and join a league. I, of course, was ALL over this idea; if I
was going to play football, I was going to do it right! It’s been a
long time coming for something like this to happen. Breaking into a
male dominated sport is not only empowering, refreshing, and
satisfying, but it truly is a dream come true. There’s no reason
why women SHOULDN’T play football and I am beyond grateful to be a
part of it here in Utah and with such an amazing group of
I wasn't really. If I hear "is it lingerie football?" one more
time... Honestly, I'm an electrician, I have plenty of experience
breaking into male dominated areas and really it's no different.
There are always those that think it's a joke (until they see a game)
and those that think it's awesome that we have taken the initiative
to put it all together.
I have loved football my entire life, After having my sons I was
always the Team Mom and loved to keep the stats for each game
(whatever would get me closer to the field) It has been such a "rush"
to be able to come out here & be able to play just like the guys.
We have the same rules as they do and hopefully we can change
peoples thoughts on woman's football when they watch us and learn
Had any of you played for your high school or college teams in any
respect, or was it more of am activity you did on the side? I had
only played in the backyard with friends, never in an organized
I played basketball in Junior HS and softball on the side ever
The closest I came to playing football in high school was powder
puff. I played on competitive teams for soccer and softball, but,
with the exception of playing ice hockey and rec/comp softball since,
that’s where it ended for me… until now.
Gavin: How did the opportunity come about for Utah to put a team
into the WFA?
Two of the four co-founders, Chrystle Kerfoot and Brooke Perkins,
played football on a local recreation style indoor womens football
team that scrimmaged against a team that was part of the WFA. Myself
and Judy Rich, also co-founders of the Blitz, joined the team under
the impression that the "rec" team was also going to join
that league. We soon found out that the team was not going to join a
league and so the four of us decided to create our own team so we could
join a league and have an actual season.
What was the process like in putting both the coaching staff and the
Well as the Head Coach, it was a challenging task, you do have to
still break down and through some barriers still. “What?! WOMENS' football?! HA!“ or "What will So-&-So think I’m
trying to get a coaching spot here or there” or “I don’t want
to be a laughing stock of my community” or “ My wife/girlfriend won't like me hanging out with a bunch of women” or
“I just plain don’t want to coach women derogatory.”
But all and all you weed through all those to find yourself coaches
that have somewhat the same philosophy and ethics you have in
football and life. And ones that do it for the love of the game and
are dying to share it with anybody that will listen.
We first focused on recruiting the players to meet the requirements
of the league. We then focused on the coaching staff. Our second year
is more structured and the changes made from last year have proved to
be beneficial to the organization and its success into the
To create a team and join a national league we knew we needed to be
organized so we started by putting together some guidelines to follow
and created a corporation to manage the team. We did a little
research on teams that failed and ones that were successful to try to
find a good structure to build from and not make mistakes others
made. A coaching staff was challenging, in the end, we took the first
"coach" that would commit to coaching. It got us through
our first season, but the mix turned out not to be the right mixture
for the team. As for finding players, that turned out to be pretty
easy, they were everywhere. Women have wanted to play football
forever, and they still do!!! The most surprising thing about the
players were that they didn't fit into any particular demographic.
There were anywhere from 18 to 45 and came from every background you
can think of.
Looking over the roster, the team is made up of high school and
college women. Was it planned to have an integrated team at various
levels, or is that simply how things shaped up?
Although there are some college students, and at least one that is a
senior in high school, there isn't any specific group we target for
recruitment. The colleges and high schools you see listed on the
roster are simply where players attended either high school or
college, not necessarily where they currently attend.
It is simply how things worked out, it just shows the interest in
women of all levels to fulfill their dreams of playing full contact
womens football. There are no stereotypes, just women working
together to play out their dreams. It is awesome that we have been
able to provide that and really a second "family" to these
When it all came together what was that first official game like and
the overall feeling that we had a new team in the city?
The feeling of stepping on the field our first game was something I
really cannot express. My heart raced, my body trembled just with the
excitement of finally being able to play "like the big
Our first official game was very exciting. I think we all felt a
huge sense of accomplishment. Taking the field for the first time was
a little nerve racking. Especially for me because I was also in
charge of making sure game day as a whole went off without a hitch.
It was very stressful to be both on the field getting ready to play
football as well as try to make sure everything was going as planned
at the gates and in the stands! In the end we proved that we were
here and we were here to stay.
It couldn’t have been a more exciting time in my eyes. To see
that dream being realized for women here in Utah and to see that
being played at a competitive level was extremely inspiring and
Last year the team was shutout in all of its official games. What
did you take from that year and what were your thoughts preparing for
It was a huge accomplishment for us to just get through every
season. We learned a lot about what we needed to do differently to be
more successful. Although we were shut out we were still happy with
our performance. We were the only team in our league that didn't have
years of experience behind us and we had the #2 rated schedule in the
league. Completing our season to us was a winning first
What we brought with us from last year was experience and an even
stronger drive to make a name for ourselves. We brought the passion,
the lessons, the memories and an even stronger determination to
We started earlier in the season working with the coaching staff to
make sure we were all on the same page with how we wanted our
organization to be ran. We are very competitive but maintain the
classy sportsmanship. We have really kept our communications open
within our organization.
For newer players, how did you both hear about the team, and what was
it like for you both to tryout and make the cut?
I actually heard about the Utah Blitz from my co-worker Roy Jackson.
He knew about my love for football and had recently heard about a women's football team here in Utah, so I decided to Google it and sure enough there was the Utah Blitz. I decided to contact them and was ecstatic when I found out I could meet with them that weekend.
The day I signed on with the team was one of the best days of my life, besides having my boys. I remember calling everyone I could think of
on the ride back home just to give them the great news. I can
honestly say that this team has become like an extended family. The
teamwork, dedication and friendships have helped me push through
difficult life experiences with determination, focus and hope for the
future. I am truly living one of my dreams.
What's the usual practice like for the team, and how do each of you
individually train for this?
Our practices during the week are 2-3 hours and our practices on the
weekends are 4-5 hours long. Individually, we do workouts at home on
days we don’t practice; we had two days of conditioning a week at
AMPS in preparation for this season, the practices, and
Our practices can be pretty intense. Saturday practices can last up
to four or five hours. We also have fitness coaches who run speed, agility,
and fitness camps in our off season to help us prepare for our
season. Individually, we all have to figure out how to fit it all in.
We don't get paid to do this, in fact we pay to play so one of the
most difficult things is to figure out how to balance the rest of our
lives like jobs, kids, school, and various other obligations. The
team not only has to physically prepare, we also have to financially
prepare. Everyone has to help the team raise enough money to cover
the season expenses. It all takes up a lot of time, especially
because most women have no experience playing football and have to
start from the basics.
I started training last November with some personal trainers with
cardio, speed and agility and muscle confusion. Practices are about
3-5 hours long depending on when they are held in the season. I dont
like the conditioning part, but it all comes together and you finally
realize its worth it. We have to work hard to be successful. We have
partnered with the University of Utah Orthopedics as well and have
really pressed our prevention of injuries and it has really paid off.
Our injuries are very minimal this season compared to last.
Dave, you took over for Greg Cover this season, what did you learn
from his coaching last year and what did you do to prepare the team
Well for me I learned quiet a bit, for starters it isn’t as easy
as it seems to be from a assistant coaches position the head coach
carries Quite a bit more on their shoulders in which I turned and had
shoulder surgery at the start of the season, hahahaha. But definitely
more responsibility you don’t get to turn it off like you do when
you’re an assistant coach. But what I took from Cover was make
sure that your up front about your intentions and follow them through
and how to make sure you pay attention to your players on how they
respond to you (i.e yelling or not yelling, explaining and not taking
it for granite that they understand). Men and women do think different
on the football field aka battle field. And I do believe as a coach
you need to continue to learn your craft all the time the game
changes, the way we teach has changed many fold over the years from
how we stretch to how we coach heck even down to what we take in our
bodies before during after the game, so why not or philosophy of HOW
and WHO we coach.
As of the date of this interview your record is currently 1-2. How has this
season been for all of you so far and what are you looking forward to
most in the coming weeks?
I look forward to changes and adapting to the different level of
teams and style the other teams play. We are always learning and
adjusting to the game.
We still have a chance to make playoffs so we are still set on that
goal. In the coming weeks we look forward to more wins, a bigger fan
base, and of course playing more!
I feel that we’re working with a tight-knit group of women who
want to help each other succeed. I’m looking forward to winning
the rest of our games and taking our division. I’m looking forward
to the continued success of the team and each woman that walks out on
How have the fans reacted to the game and how has it been for you
building a local following?
We’ve got a strong following this year with over 1500 Facebook
fans. I expect to have them all out to the rest of the home games
since the weather should be cooperating with us then.
I think most fans are surprised. I don't think they expect to see
the hard hits and well executed plays. Every game is followed by an
influx of new fans. Building a local following is actually pretty
fun. This season I have actually been stopped by strangers when they
see me wearing something "Blitz" and ask me if I play for
the team. It's awesome to know the word is getting out there!
Moving onto the sport for a bit, what's your take on women's
football today, both good and bad?
Women's football isn't quite the same. Women don't get scholarships
to play in college, we don't get millions of dollars to play
professionally. Most of us haven't been coached all our lives to play
the game so we have a lot of learning to do in a short period of
time. What this all really means is that the women who play football
play with passion and for their love of the game, not for a paycheck.
We are there for our personal growth, not to be famous or make
millions. Our games offer a totally different atmosphere because of
this. It would be nice to have more support so the women who play can
focus more on learning or improving their game instead of having to
dedicate so much time raising the money to play.
The only bad thing that I see right now is the fact that there are
still way too many women out there that don’t know about this
Womens football is more dominate in the south and east. It has been
hard getting it to take off here in Utah, but we are willing to put
forth the effort and make it work.
Is there anything you believe could be done to improve the game or
make it more prominent?
This season has been hard for alot of businesses to help us with
marketing. I believe the more media coverage we can get would help
the sport take off.
Getting the word out would do wonders for the game. We will also be
working to secure a practice facility better suited to house us in
the winter months and more equipment to better train our women during
the off season.
Being relatively new, what are your thoughts on the WFA and the work
the league is doing to promote the sport and get people
The WFA has made tremendous strides for women's football in a very
short period of time. They make every effort to find ways to get the
well deserved recognition for the sport. They are still looking to
expand the league and are very good to work with the get new teams
off the ground.
The WFA has been great to work with and has been there to support
us in our efforts to help them succeed. We are the North West Pacific
Division reps for the WFA.
Now that the league is receiving attention around the country, where
do you believe it will be in say, the next five years?
I am confident that the league will continue to grow, just as it has
in these last couple of years. More and more women are realizing
that this opportunity is out there and have jumped at the chance to
participate; I don’t see that changing – the league will continue
Within the next five years, I would see one unified womens football
league where the competititions are taken to a higher level.
I think in the next five years we will see expansion in our division as
well as more televised games. Attendance will definitely pick up at
games across the country. I think the WFA has what it takes to unify
the various womens teams from around the nation and become the
greatest womens football league there is.
What can we expect from all of you the rest of the season and the
In our off season we are planning some youth camps and activities,
as well as some clinics for adult women to participate in. You will
be able to find us at various events around the Salt Lake area. We
will also be working with the Salt City Derby Girls after our
season to promote their new banked track derby.
Of course, we would like to finish this season as the division
winners, and look for us to be out and about all year round promoting
our team and league.
Aside the obvious, is there anything you'd like to plug or
We have two more home games, one against the Las Vegas Showgirlz on
May 14th and one against the Portland Fighting Fillies on June 4th,
both games will be exciting and full of surprises both on and off the
field. We strive to make every event fun for all ages.
|Follow Gavin's Underground:
it comes to sports in Utah, we're passionate. I mean, we have to be
with a basketball team that won't see a national championship until
after The Clippers win one. --- Ha! Okay, that was a low blow, but in
all honesty we tent to show support for every team in the state (just
shy of purchasing $80 uniforms from the Fanzz store), and have even
branched into giving what you would call the “alternative” sports
one hell of a fanbase. Don't believe me? Go ask the MMA leagues, the
roller derby leagues, the pro wreslting organizations, the ski and
skate comps, and last but not least...