Ever since I met Odessa Jenkins, head coach of the Texas Elite Spartans and co-founder of the Dallas-based Women’s National Football Conference, I’ve been obsessed. Our staff photographer, Elizabeth Lavin, was equally smitten after she shot the team’s O-line for the April issue. I mean, just look at these women. They are superhuman: kindergarten teachers and surgical neurophysiologists by day and face-masked crusaders of the gridiron by night.
Many are mothers. A couple are grandmothers. One was on the U.S. skeleton team.
Women’s professional tackle football isn’t new (remember the Dallas Diamonds?), but until now it hasn’t been very professional. Meaning, the players traditionally have had to pay to play. For uniforms, for helmets, for airfare and hotels.
Jenkins, arguably the greatest running back in the herstory of the sport, wanted to change that. So the business-savvy executive (she’s a vice president of client services at software supplier Blackbaud) started her own league and signed on Adidas and Ridell as the sport’s first national sponsors. Then, in the league’s first season, she led her team to the national championship.
The Texas Elite Spartans and the Utah Falcons will face off on Saturday, June 29, in Denver (at 8 p.m. Dallas time). You can stream it live here. Jenkins says it will be worth tuning in.
“This may arguably be the best professional women’s football game played to date,” she says. “The Utah Falcons are a really, really good organization. They’ve lost two games in four years. We’re probably going to see the best opponents we’ve ever seen.”
Before you watch it, get to know some of the players through the slideshow above. The amazing portraits were all shot by Lavin. I believe she made them all run shuttle sprints just so they’d sweat a little.
Then like the team’s Facebook page. They are trying to get 10,000 followers before the first touchdown on Saturday. They only have 200 to go. And these women don’t like to lose.
They say that tackling in the open field is one of the hardest things to do in football! Maybe, they should try to do it LIKE A GIRL! #wnfc #womensfootball #beELITE #weELITE #spartaaa
Posted by Texas Elite Women's Football on Monday, April 29, 2019