By Emell Derra Adolphus
When you’re watching the girls of the Detroit Pride football team, you won’t see gender – just a love for the game.
“When people say girls can’t play football, I say come out to one of our games,” says team member Erin Anderson. “If what they think is still true after, I tell them that I will pay for their ticket.”
Proudly, she adds, “I haven’t had to pay for one ticket yet.”
Detroit Pride is one of nearly 36 active full tackle football teams in the Independent Women’s Football League (IWFL) — a national organization founded in 2000 to create a safe and supportive environment for women to play football. Kicking off its first season as a team earlier this year, Detroit Pride has already made a name for itself with a championship win. And they are only just getting started as a team, says Anderson.
“Being an athlete all my life, the sport had come very easily to me. But seeing these women, who have no experience, become very successful at what they do is remarkable,” she says. “They get hit really hard and they keep on coming. They are so hungry to learn and it is amazing to see that. And it is really cool to see women out there kicking butt.”
Anderson, a K-8 teacher when she’s not on the field, explains the girls of Detroit Pride come from all walks of life and that is what makes being on the team such a unique experience.
“When you come in, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been on the team since day one or one minute, you are a part of the family,” she says. And if you’re part of the Detroit Pride family, you’re going to learn how to take a hit.
Currently, Anderson holds the team record in terms of serious injuries after tearing both of her Achilles tendons. And while other players can report bumps and bruises, the risk of injury never seems to outweigh the fun of the game.
“Once you’re out there with us, we are all talking and cheering you on,” says team member Megan Brooks about the adrenaline rush of the game. “I just try and plan ahead, be prepared and do the best that I can so that I can do the best out there and be careful as well.”
As a nursing student, Brooks admits eventually her career may logically tell her not to participate in such an injury heavy game. But until then, she says she’ll take her chances.
“I love it, even with the injuries,” says team member Tashia Pickett. “My first game here, I caught a face mask to the ankle and that hurt like hell. But it’s like, once you play your adrenaline gets pumping. I don’t feel it. So we get to comparing once we get out of our uniforms who has the biggest marks.”
Pickett explains, she’s always been a football fan, but gender stood in her way.
“I used to cheer for the high school Eastside Raiders and my dad was a coach. I asked him if I could play, and he was completely against it. That’s what made me go to basketball,” she says. “It’s like, of course everybody says things you can’t do, because they’ve never seen it done.”
As a team, Anderson says, Detroit Pride is a prime example that not only can girls play football, but also they don’t play around when it comes to the game.
“I tell my kids I play football and my younger boys are like, ‘Girls can’t play football.’ And I’m like, ‘Yes they can.’ And I show them the videos and they are like, ‘Woah.’ So their views of women have changed. Even my older girls see that there are no limitations because of gender,” says Anderson. “So that’s another reason why I wanted to join Detroit Pride – to show my kids that there are no limitations, regardless of who you are, what you are; there are no limitations if you want to be something.”