Dynamic duo from Manitoba proudly dons Team Canada jersey at IFAF Worlds

As women’s football in Manitoba begins to build strong roots, two women have represented values such as consistency, team work and performance. Donning the Canadian jersey at the astounding ages of 46 and 39, Lisa Klaverkamp and Pauline Olynik have found the fountain of youth on the gridiron. Young at heart with an enthusiasm for the game, their efforts paid remarkable dividends as both competed at the IFAF Women’s Worlds in Vantaa, Finland.

Klaverkamp (left) and Olynik in the red Team Canada jerseys at the 2013 IFAF Women's Worlds (Image obtained from Facebook)

Klaverkamp (left) and Olynik in the red Team Canada jerseys at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds (Image obtained from Facebook)

With the women of pro football in Manitoba giving back to the community through the Manitoba Girls Football Association, Klaverkamp and Olynik (along with other Winnipeg mainstays such as Christine O’Donnell, Amy Mohr, Roxanna Cox and Alexa Matwyczuk) are proving to be role models for a new generation of girls willing to try the game.

The pride of Brandon, Manitoba, Klaverkamp joined the Manitoba Fearless during their inaugural season. At the time, she was 40 years young and was bringing her 16 year-old daughter Andrea to tryouts for the Fearless. After running into Tannis Wilson, the club’s general manager, she was encouraged to try out as well.

Despite her age, that rookie season would mark the beginning of Klaverkamp’s remarkable football journey as she would carve a remarkable legacy as a player. While Klaverkamp may have had early concerns about her age and frame (she is only 130 pounds), her small stature is overshadowed by the fact she has the heart of a lion.

During that first season, she would run into another player that would develop into more than just a teammate, but a cherished friend. Hailing from the francophone community of St. Claude, Pauline Olynik was a 34 year-old who had recently switched careers.

From having dabbled in modeling at a younger age to working in auto body, Olynik was a registered massage therapist when she donned the Fearless jersey. Of note, football was one of many sports she had tried after relocating to Winnipeg, which included speed skating, rowing and boxing.

Early on, both would share the common ground of having been exceptional athletes in high school. Basketball and volleyball were Klaverkamp’s sport of choice in her teens. Ironically, Olynik participated in both sports as well. Having grown up with four older brothers, her love of sport was cultivated at a young age. A high school star in volleyball, it was only a question of time before her athletic skills would take her to a larger stage.

Widely considered as one of the best female defensive backs in Canada, the 39 year-old Olynik competes with the energy and drive of a 29 year-old. In peak physical condition, she looks like she could compete for another decade. Statistically, she ranked seventh on the Canadian team in tackles with 5.5.

Against a Spanish team making their IFAF debut, she would log 2.5 tackles in a 50-0 whitewash, while three tackles were accumulated in a come from behind win against host country Finland. Besides her great contributions on the field, Olynik even managed to provide a warm-hearted rendition of the Canadian national anthem prior to one of Canada’s contests.

Although Klaverkamp did not register any tackles at the IFAF Worlds, her contributions containing the opposition were essential. Reputed as one of the hardest hitters in the WWCFL, it brings to mind a comparison to hockey legend Gordie Howe. Having grown up in the Canadian prairies, he played hockey into his fifties, never losing his reputation as a hard hitter.

One of only two amazing women on the Canadian team over the age of 40, it was only fitting that the other one was also from Manitoba. Amy Mohr, a 45 year-old defensive back with the North Winnipeg Nomads Wolfpack, was once a member of the Fearless. Appropriately, the two still work out together every week.

In the same spirit as Wilson and Lisa Zueff Cummings, both Klaverkamp and Olynik have developed into strong women that helped build women’s football in Manitoba. Klaverkamp is not only the WWCFL representative for the Fearless; she is also the Director of Finance for St. Vital Mustangs football. While both shares a love of the game, another bit of common ground is the remarkable role of motherhood, making them a pair of empathic and patient leaders that are like big sisters for Fearless rookies.

Competing for the Canadian national football team at the IFAF Women’s Worlds in Vantaa, Finland was a stage that showcased more than their athletic skills, but their sportsmanship, dedication and perseverance. Having emerged from Finland with a silver medal, an even greater legacy may be the fact that their roles as football pioneers provide a message of inspiration to women of any age that it is never too late to pursue your dreams.

#lisa-klaverkamp, #manitoba-fearless, #pauline-olynik

Passing of a pioneer as DC Divas remember a life lost too soon

Every football franchise has a coach who left a remarkable imprint on the franchise. Whether it be Tom Landry with the Dallas Cowboys or Bill Walsh with the San Francisco 49ers, Ezra Cooper had that same impact with the proud DC Divas women’s football club. Having taught hundreds of women in the Washington, DC area the game of tackle football, he made a profound impact on not just their playing careers, but their lives.

Image obtained from DC Divas facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/dcdivasfootball

Image obtained from DC Divas facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/dcdivasfootball

Having lost his life during the weekend of October 26, it was not just a life lost too soon, but the passing of a pioneer in the game of women’s football. When the Divas were one of the ten charter franchises in the National Women’s Football Association, they became the first pro women’s team in the DC area.

The untimely loss of Cooper signifies the passing of a third male who helped bring a touch of class and friendship to the proud franchise. Photographer Bob Morrison, who contributed to the US Army and National Geographic, started capturing the Divas gridiron glories in 2007. Despite confinement to a wheelchair due to cancer, he was still devoted to the club, photographing from the sidelines. Trainer Nate Randolph became a member of the Divas family in 2004. Volunteering his time and serving as a father figure for many of the players, his daughter Natalie was also a receiver for the club.

With Cooper as their first-ever coach, he guided them to a 3-4 mark in their inaugural 2001 season. While it was the only losing season in their history, it came as great validation when he led the Divas to their first win in franchise history, a 10-6 home win over the Connecticut Crush.

His assiduous efforts helped create a women’s football dynasty in DC that led to five consecutive playoff appearances and five straight division titles from 2003-07. The 2003 season would be a watershed moment in his coaching tenure. Not only did the Divas win their first-ever playoff game (ironically, it would come against Connecticut), but Donna Wilkinson became the first female football player to rush for over 1,000 yards in one season. Her dream season would finish with a sparkling 1,267 rushing yards.

As a coach, his finest accomplishment was capturing the NWFA title in 2006 over the Oklahoma City Lightning. Yet, his greatest legacy was the number of remarkable women who grew as athletes and people under his tutelage. When Team USA captured the 2013 IFAF Women’s World Championships in Vantaa, Finland, three Divas were part of the club; defensive back Callie Brownson, defensive lineman Donna Wilkinson and offensive lineman Rebecca Worsham. There is no doubt that all three were affected in some way by his influence with the club.

Of all the players he ever coached, Wilkinson may have been his biggest superstar. While she competes at the running back and tight end position in a storied career with the Divas, she is also a popular local TV personality, working as a sports analyst on WUSA-TV9 GAME ON.

During the Divas years in the NWFA, he compiled a regular season record of 40-8, which included three undefeated seasons of 8-0 from 2004-06. During 2004, Cooper would lead the Divas into the Turkey Bowl, the first tackle football contest to feature men play against women. While the Divas lost the contest, a remarkable 8,500 fans came to show their support.

In the postseason, he would compile a 6-3 mark which featured the storied title win in 2006. He would join the club into their transition in the Independent Women’s Football League where the 2007 season resulted in another 8-0 record. The postseason would result in an Eastern Conference semi-final loss to the Atlanta Xplosion.

Named the NWFA Head Coach of the Year in 2006, the honor was made even more special as it was voted on by not just franchise owners, but fellow coaches, players and fans. He was also recognized in June 2009 with the Excellence Award from the Northern Virginia Athletic Directors Administrators and Coaches Association. When he was not on the gridiron occupying his all too familiar position as head coach, Cooper worked as a payroll manager.

#dc-divas, #donna-wilkinson, #ezra-cooper

WFA welcomes two new franchises into the fold for highly anticipated 2014 season

As tryout season begins for many of the franchises in the Women’s Football Alliance, two teams are entering the fold in 2014. With the league continuing to grow, franchises from Iowa and Phoenix, Arizona shall commence league play.

The Iowa Steamrollers have not competed since the 2011 WFA season when the club was known as the Iowa Explosion. Having held open combines throughout late summer and early autumn, the squad is working tirelessly to acquire talent eager to don their colors.

Iowa

Its biggest challenge is local competition in the form of the Iowa Crush, a franchise in the rival Independent Women’s Football League. During the 2013 IWFL season, the club posted a winless record, going 0-6. Jennifer Hirakawa, a co-owner of the Steamrollers was once the General Manager of the Crush. She was forced to leave the franchise after the 2007 season for military service. Ironically, Tammy Campos, who owned the first Iowa-based team to compete in the IWFL also served in the military.

Of note, the Steamrollers shall not be Iowa’s first entry into the WFA. The Iowa Thunder competed from 2009-10, compiling a cumulative record of 11-5. It would be the first women’s football team in the history of the state to earn a winning record in the regular season (going 5-3 in 2009 with a playoff berth).

After the Iowa Xplosion’s inaugural season in the WFA (2011), owner Eric Steffy gave ownership of the club to Hirakawa and Cindy Taft. Heading into 2014, Taft shall serve as general manager while Myndi Pottebaum will assume an ownership role. The next round of open tryouts for the club shall take place on November 2, 2013 at the Water Tower Park.

While the roster has been partially formed, there is a blend of rookies and veterans, along with college educated athletes. Quarterback Macen Hirakawa has six years of women’s football experience. Running back and defensive back Kayla Lavalais attended Wayne State University in Detroit while linebacker Mook Bascomb attended Iowa State.

Having competed in the IWFL, the Phoenix Phantomz continue the migration of clubs joining the WFA. Lead by GM Tabitha McBride and head coach Adrian Davis, the Phantomz shall be competing in the Southwestern Region. Competition will be fierce as the division features championship contending teams such as the San Diego Surge and the Pacific Warriors.

Phoenix

The final round of tryouts in 2013 shall be at SVOB Park on November 2 and December 7. During the 2013 IWFL season, the Phantomz rebounded from a winless preseason to post a 4-0 record in the regular season. Scheduled contests versus the El Paso Black Widows and the Tucson Monsoon were cancelled. Qualifying for a postseason berth, the franchise would be eliminated in the second round of play.

With a roster featuring nicknames such as Dozer (Alexis Snyder), Cubbie (Kyla Roth), Truck (Shona Bell), BooBoo (Nichole Taylor) and Wisconsin (Sue Kocher), the Phantomz are a colorful bunch. Featuring six captains, including Erin O’Bryan, Rochelle Suchta, Erin Alonzo, Mimi Refuerzo, Desiree Belliard and Amber Hartley, there is no shortage of leadership.

As the Southwest Region promises to deliver on high quality female football, the Phoenix Phantomz are proud to help stimulate interest in the growing sport. Considering the division features another squad from Arizona, known as the Assassins, it also provides the franchise with a newly installed rival.

#erin-obryan, #iowa-steamrollers, #jennifer-hirakawa, #phoenix-phantomz

Expanding sport of women’s football makes it mark on Capitol Hill

During the week of October 20, 2013, some of America’s feminine football heroes made their mark in Washington. Although the entire 2013 IFAF gold medal winning squad from Team USA was not present, they were still proudly represented by some of the most talented women the sport has to offer.

The reason for their visit to the nation’s capital was the opportunity to begin an inspiring movement with the the White House Counsel for Women and Girls. Part of a terrific movement to bring equality in opportunities for women, it is an inspiring cause that should help create a more equal and level playing field for future generations of female athletes.

Organized by Adrienne Smith of the Boston Militia, she was part of Team USA’s gold medal wins in both 2010 and 2013. She had been working on organizing such a trip since the USA arrived from the first IFAF Women’s Worlds in 2010.

Team USA members make their way to Washington (Image obtained from Facebook)

Team USA members make their way to Washington (Image obtained from Facebook)

Created in 2009 through the signing of an Executive Order by United States President Barack Obama, the White House Council on Women and Girls provides a federal resource to address challenges faced by women and girls. It also helps to ensure that Cabinet-level agencies regard how their policies impact women in American society.

Having had the opportunity to meet with Tina Tchen and Avra Siegel of the White House Council on Women and Girls, there is no question that women’s football is becoming one of the fastest growing sports in North America. Complemented by the existence of two women’s leagues in Canada, the US features the Women’s Football Alliance (the league provided most of the roster for Team USA), along with the Independent Women’s Football League (whose Montreal franchise helped contribute to Canada’s roster).

With Title IX having celebrated its fortieth anniversary in 2012, its impact was also a topic of discussion. Concerns from the players came from the fact that many policies in school districts and states that prevent girls from participating in contact sports. As it was noted, the public or cultural perception of girls who play is undesirable to many young women. This must lead to a shift in the way strong and powerful women are viewed in society.

Adrienne Smith at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House (Image obtained from: https://twitter.com/adriennethe10)

Adrienne Smith at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House (Image obtained from: https://twitter.com/adriennethe10)

In addition, the impact of ten year-old girl Sam Gordon, who emerged as a phenomenon playing with boys in Utah, is a catalyst in furthering the move to strengthen the impact of women’s football sooner rather than later. Having captured the imagination of sports fans, Gordon also became the first female football player to appear on the famed Wheaties box.

Among the proud football heroes in attendance included Callie Brownson, Donna Wilkinson, Rebecca Worsham, Leah Hinkle and Kimberly Klesse, to name a few. Wilkinson is a 39 year-old defensive lineman whose club team is based in the nation’s capital, the DC Divas. The tallest player on Team USA, offensive lineman Worsham is one of Wilkinson’s teammates on DC along with Brownson. Playing at the defensive back position, she was the youngest member of the US contingent.

A ten-year veteran of women’s football, Hinkle is a school teacher from the Pacific Northwest, having competed with the Portland Shockwave for the last four seasons. Competing for the Columbus Comets, Klesse is a wide receiver born in 1986.

Portland Shockwave player Leah Hinkle with the IFAF World Championship Trophy in Vantaa, Finland (Obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/LeahHinkle)

Portland Shockwave player Leah Hinkle with the IFAF World Championship Trophy in Vantaa, Finland (Obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/LeahHinkle)

Representing the Midwest was Jennifer Plummer, a linebacker with the West Michigan Mayhem. Fellow linebacker Kristine Elmore from the Tri State Warriors was also in attendance along with Apsen Marshall, a defensive lineman whose club team is the Central Cal War Angels. The Dallas Diamonds, who competed in the 2013 WFA National Title Game had proud representation from members of its defensive unit. Dr. Jen Welter, a linebacker for the squad was joined by defensive lineman Kenoris Blackman.

While there is no question that the women of the gridiron are tremendous role models and inspiration for women to follow their dreams, a key point of discussion was the fact that many girls do not continue physical activity after their school years. Another point that was emphasized featured the importance of remaining health and active into adulthood as the football field has a place for every size, shape and build.

Compared to other role models in the media, consideration was made to the fact that instead of seeing competition and drama as the norm, women should learn to work together and take care of each other. With consideration that a girl can look at a football team and find someone who closely resembles herself, it fosters a sense of friendship and belonging.

These remarkable football heroes also offered their support towards the First Lady’s “Let’s Move Campaign”. This remarkable group of women would like to see a future where a partnership can be built where the gold medal winning members of Team USA can serve as ambassadors for women in sport.

The most impressive fact about these remarkable women is that they represent various age groups and come from diverse backgrounds, helping to reinforce the feeling of camaraderie that defines the sport. Having shattered barriers by gracing the gridiron, this initial meeting was part of a movement that will require more discussion and effort in order to keep moving forward. While the change needed to address and change the cultural norm on women in sport is one that is an uphill climb, the journey towards the peak is one that should bear remarkable results.

Each is a role model in their own unique way, helping to pave the way for the next generation of women who aspire to grace the gridiron. Their visit to Washington addresses the fact that the game is ready to grow, like women’s basketball a generation ago with the birth of the WNBA and the ABL.

Special thanks to Leah Hinkle

#adrienne-smith, #callie-brownson, #dc-divas, #donna-wilkinson, #jen-welter, #kenoris-blackman, #kimberly-klesse, #leah-hinkle, #rebecca-worsham, #us-national-womens-football-team

Harcourt hero Ashley Berggren experiences gridiron glory with Chicago Force

As one of the greatest women’s basketball players in Big Ten history, it would come as no surprise to see Ashley Breggren achieving new heights with the Chicago Force of the Women’s Football Alliance. Having only started competing on the gridiron at age 33, it is testament to her physical and mental abilities to adapt and excel. Hardcore sports fans in Illinois remember Berggren as a star with the University of Illinois Fighting Illini basketball program.

Having re-written the record books at Barrington High School, her illustrious records still stand. With Illinois, she helped the squad to its first-ever Big Ten Conference Title, while earning three straight All-Big Ten honors (1996 to 1998). Her 2,061 career points after fifteen years is still good enough for second all-time. She was also the first women’s basketball player to have her jersey retired by Illinois.

Berggren’s jersey retirement. Image by: Cary Frye

Berggren’s jersey retirement. Image by: Cary Frye

Named Big Ten Player of the Year and First-Team All-American in 1997, she also grew up with a love of football. Growing up in the era when the NFL’s Chicago Bears were led by Jim McMahon, Walter Payton and Mike Singletary. “Da Bears” captivated her imagination and cultivated her love for the sport. Force owner and general manager Linda Bache, who calls her Berggie, acknowledged her talent in a piece for the website Windy City Media Group, believing that she would be a special player for the franchise when she first saw her try out for the team.

Before she would join the ranks of professional women’s football, Berggren was the second round pick of the Chicago Condors in the 1999 ABL Draft. She was one of five players on the roster that had connections to Chicago and was even immortalized on a trading card.

A unique collectible as Berggren was featured in the SkyBox ABL 1999 Trading Card Series (Image obtained from: http://www.tradingcarddb.com/GalleryT.cfm/tid/1428/Chicago-Condors)

A unique collectible as Berggren was featured in the SkyBox ABL 1999 Trading Card Series (Image obtained from: http://www.tradingcarddb.com/GalleryT.cfm/tid/1428/Chicago-Condors)

Statistically, Berggren is a dependable receiver who can excel at the national and international game. At the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds, Berggren would log one touchdown in a contest versus Sweden, while ranking sixth on the US in receiving yards. In the gold medal game versus Canada, she would compile three receptions for 34 yards.
Having helped the United States national team capture the gold medal at the 2013 IFAF Women’s World Football Championships, she would accomplish the sweep by helping the Force win their first-ever WFA national championship.

Riding the rocket arm of sensational Sami Grisafe, the Force had the number one offense during the WFA regular season in 2013, averaging 61.9 points per game. Berggren would finish as the third ranked receiver on the Force with 31 receptions, complemented by 669 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns, which led all receivers.
In the national championship versus the Dallas Diamonds (of which several Dallas players were her teammates with Team USA), Berggren would catch a 20-yard touchdown pass from Sami Grisafe to give the Force a 26-0 advantage at halftime.

While this was a historic accomplishment in Berggren’s sporting career, she also had the opportunity to compete in the 2012 WFA National Championship game. Contested at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, it was the first women’s football game ever held in an NFL stadium.

Berggren and Nani Love (right) were honored with the Force prior to a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field. (Image obtained from Facebook)

Berggren and Nani Love (right) were honored with the Force prior to a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field. (Image obtained from Facebook)

Her exploits on the gridiron as one of the top offensive weapons for the Chicago Force have extended her remarkable athletic career, she has also managed to incorporate coaching as well. Of note, she was a 2013 inductee into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Having served as the bench boss for the Schaumburg girls basketball coach for four seasons (leading them to back-to-back winning seasons), she did not return for the 2013-14 season as her teaching position was no longer avaialble due to the declining number of special education students.

For the players of Schaumburg, this is a tremendous loss. Having contributed to basketball youth camps for the last 15 years, it was testament to her commitment to positively influence young people through the positive power of sport.

Image obtained from Chicago Force website (http://www.chicagoforcefootball.com/)

Image obtained from Chicago Force website (http://www.chicagoforcefootball.com/)

The next chapter of her athletic career is the expansion of her youth sports company, Dream Out Loud Sports, LLC. Part of her initiative also includes an after-school program for boys and girls aged 4 to 17 where outdoor and environmental learning helps to foster a sense of preserving our ecological legacy. Currently an assistant coach at North Central College in Napierville, Illinois, her expertise and acumen are highly valued.

Berggren is a dedicated individual whose athletic and cultural legacy is truly based on educating. Having lived in a same-sex relationship, her publicly mentioning it is influential not just for women, but men too, who are looking for the courage to discuss their orientation. From showing basketball fans that women had a place in the game, to proving that women had every right to play tackle football, to inspiring the next generation of athletes, Berggren is a tremendous role model and equally deserving of being considered one of Chicago’s true sporting heroes, just like her childhood hero, Walter Payton.

#ashley-berggren, #chicago-force

Anna Heasman an exciting component of Green Bay Chill’s high powered offense

Nominated for the 2013 LFL Rookie of the Year Award and for the Offensive Player of the Year Award, Anna Heasman had a breakout season for the Green Bay Chill. The Receiving Leader in the Legends Football League, it was part of a campaign that helped to provide the franchise with optimism for the future.

Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/AnnaGbChillLfl

Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/AnnaGbChillLfl

Originally from Nelson Bay in New South Wales, Australia, Heasman has proven to be a welcome addition to the Chill. Her 18 receptions accounted for 41 percent of the Chill’s total receptions, while her 246 receiving yards accounted for 44 percent of the receiving corps. Leading the team in both categories, the second-best receiver was Hallie Jiskra (an LFL All-Fantasy selection) with 6 receptions and 114 yards. In addition, she would contribute on defense with 5.5 total tackles.

Heasman quickly became a fan favorite among Chill fans. Joining Jessica Tomochek and Jessica Peyton, they were guests on the WakeUp morning show on FOX6. Finishing the season as the LFL receiver in receptions, yards per game and touchdowns, she captured the imagination of teammates and rivals alike throughout the LFL.

As a weapon for elite quarterback Anne “Showtime” Erler (who would win the LFL Offensive Player of the Year Award), it helped make the Chill postseason contenders. As the Chill’s 210 offensive yards per game and 133 passing yards per game ranked first in the league, Heasman added an exciting dimension to the offense.

Her coming out party would come in the third game of the season for the Chill on June 22. In a 40-32 road loss to the Las Vegas Sin, the contest would prove to be one of the greatest in league history. Heasman would set an LFL record with five touchdowns in one game. After Carmen Bourseau provided the Sin with a 6-0 advantage, Erler hooked up with Heasman for a 35-yard score.

Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/MyGreenBayChill

Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/MyGreenBayChill

Fellow Rookie of the Year nominee Kelly Schroeder replied for Las Vegas with her own touchdown. Once again, Heasman would prove to be the answer as Erler found her for a three-yard scoring play. After halftime, Green Bay would hold a 20-18 lead as Heasman scored the first touchdown of the half.
Despite Sin quarterback Nikki Johnson and Erler holding one of the finest gunslinging exhibitions in LFL history, Heasman stole the show as her fourth touchdown (a 13-yard pass) tied the game at 26 apiece. Johnson would reply with her powerful legs, running 35 yards for a touchdown run and the lead once again.

Not discouraged, the Heasman and Erler show continued. With Green Bay struggling on the rush, Heasman provided Erler with a reliable target. As Erler picked apart the defense, she would conclude another successful drive by connecting with Heasman for her record setting fifth score. Although Johnson would find Maddie McCoy for the game-winning touchdown, Heasman gained the respect of all in attendance at the match.

While fans hope she returns for the 2014 season, another group of fans are eagerly hopeful that Heasman is not finished playing in 2013. With LFL Australia kicking off on December 6, fans are hoping that Aussie native Heasman will decide to play a little longer this year. Should she decide to join the league in its inaugural season, it would certainly provide fans and players alike with another incentive to look forward to the league’s launch.

#anna-heasman, #anne-erler, #green-bay-chill, #las-vegas-sin, #nikki-johnson

Hard-hitting Julie Oleson a rough and tumble competitor in women’s football

As it says on her Twitter account, she is here to make pretty girls ugly. A tough as nails, no-nonsense athlete, she was poised to serve as one of the stalwarts for the defensive unit of the Baltimore Blitz. More than an athlete, she was also a regional spokesperson for the Women’s Indoor Football League, helping to grow awareness for what promised to be an exciting new chapter in the budding sport.

Photo credit: Michael Key

Photo credit: Michael Key

Recognized by the Washington Blade as the best amateur athlete in 2012, Julie Oleson is a superb athlete with a background in volleyball. Having competed with Limestone College Saints on their volleyball program, she set several program records. Her game-day 44 digs on 11/4/05 is the Saints program record. Additional digs of 40, 39 and 37 in game play rank third to fifth on the list. Her 6 aces in one game, accomplished on 10/10/06 is also one of the greatest performances in program history. With the Limestone Saints, she has also earned First and Second Team All-CVAC Honors. Of note, Oleson also graduated from Marymount University in later years.

During 2013, Oleson’s athletic skills were showcased on a larger stage. Playing with the Baltimore Charm in the Legends Football League, she pulled double duty on the offensive and defensive line. Her season would culminate in a postseason berth, while statistically, she registered 5 solo tackles, 6 total stops and one interception with eight return yards.

No longer with the WIFL, Oleson could have been part of a renaissance in the Beltway as both Baltimore and Washington proudly represent the capital region. Having joined Oleson for play in the WIFL was Amber Wilson. Also committed as a WIFL Regional Spokesperson, she was a former competitor with the Las Vegas Sin in the Legends Football League. Wilson finished her 2013 season with four takcles in two games played, while attempting to lead her club to a postseason berth.

With the Washington Wildcats featuring a multi-sport star in Cara Vargas, it had the makings of a great rivalry because Vargas is familiar to Oleson. Both attended Baltimore’s training camp in late 2012. The two were also interviewed together in promotional material covering the WIFL.

While the future in football is unsure for Oleson, her work ethic and dedication to performance and fitness would have set the gold standard for the Blitz. As a multi-talented athlete, fans are hoping that Oleson will grace the gridiron once more.

#amber-wilson, #baltimore-blitz, #julie-oleson