In a year that has seen the Minnesota Valkyrie rebuild, a remarkable group of women have helped provide leadership and inspiration on and off the field. While they are six members of the budding franchise that are over the age of 30 on the squad, their maturity, perspective and empathy makes them ideal teammates.
These strong women include the likes of Lisa Bastien, Kelli Gillispie, Kathryn Johnson, Cristina Kelly, Laurie Jo Miller and Katrina Stewart. Considering the loss of superstars such as Whitney Meierotto and Cydney Froehlich, every one of these dedicated athletes provided a leadership role. Their presence helped make them big sisters for a squad which featured promising rookies such as Erin Tjornhom and Kari Janes.
Many of these wondrous women have also helped to set a positive example by donating their valuable time to charitable causes such as Feed my starving children and Walking for Warriors. Players such as Kelly and Stewart who have been with the Valkyrie from the beginning have even travelled to the Legends Cup in Las Vegas to meet with loyal fans. In addition, Kelly, who is a mainstay on the offensive line, maintains a fan page on social media which helps open a window into the world of Valkyrie football.
Statistically, these women made positive contributions to a squad that played valiantly despite a last-place finish. Stewart ranked second on the squad in rushing while Miller and Bastien ranked fourth and fifth, respectively. Ironically, Miller also ranked fourth in tackles with Stewart ahead of her in third place. Basiten would also prove to be a double threat on offense, finishing as the team’s receiving leader.
Despite measuring in at 5’1″, Bastien is a spitfire with a mammoth heart and a gigantic determination to give her team a chance at win. Having also played and volunteered with the Minnesota Machine of the Women’s Football Alliance, her love of the game is one that stretches year round. When not on the gridiron, she is a distributor at Advocare and a real estate agent.
Kelli Gillispie is more than an athlete; she is a business woman and a pillar in her community of Mound, Minnesota. While some fans call her the sexiest politician in America, she is more than just a sex symbol. She is a woman of substance and a remarkable example of empowerment.
Quite possibly the renaissance woman of the Valkyrie, Gillispie dons many remarkable hats. In addition to being the owner of Tonka Auto and Marine, she also loans her business acumen to the Valkyrie as their marketing manager. Gillispie has also displayed remarkable ingenuity and commitment to her team by selling regular season tickets at her place of business. Despite such commitments, Gillispie also proudly gives back to her community. From serving on the Mound City Council, she is also the vice president of Westonka Community and Commerce and has loaned her time to the HeartBeat 5000.
With a background as a gymnast, soccer player and track competitor in high school, her lifelong of sport was extended by joining the purple and gold. Having competed in the inaugural season of the Valkyrie, Gillispie caught a touchdown pass in their 2011 season opener against rival Green Bay.
Like Gillispie, Miller also hails from Mound. While she may have been the oldest player on the squad, her love of the game and team spirit are like a fountain of youth. As one of the most effective two-way players on the team, she was encouraged by Gillispie to give the team a try. With a volleyball background, Miller grew up in California and had a strong impact with the team, as she played in all three games. Currently a hairstylist in Mound, her fun-loving nature helped to establish her as a fan favorite.
Unlike many social norms about age and beauty, these competitors for the purple and yellow definitely prove that women over the age of 30 possess a vitality and attractiveness about them. Despite the heartbreak of a season of struggle, there are cases when teams can bond over losing and emerge stronger for it. Having forged many lifelong friendships and improved the lives of others through charitable work, these mature yet magnificent women made it a season to remember.