SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Fall signals the official return of football, a time when fans flock to stadiums and fill living rooms to capacity to watch their favorite teams do battle on the gridiron.
But if you happen to catch a game between the Navy Sharks and the Marine Wardawgz, or the Air Force Falcons versus the Army Vixens, you may notice something a little different in the lineup.
These teams and its players are part of Hawaii’s Female Flag Football League. As its name suggests, Hawaii’s Female Flag Football League is dedicated to women – both service members and civilians – who want to compete in flag football on an even playing field.
“I love seeing women excelling in sports against each other,” said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Eustacia “Tasha” Joseph, Naval Health Clinic Hawaii, and league co-founder.
“Usually when women compete with men, especially if they’re the only female on the team, you hear, ‘Oh, she’s good … for a girl.’ But when women compete against other women, it gives them the chance to play up to their full potential,” Joseph added.
Joseph created Hawaii’s Female Flag Football League after the success of a friendly flag football game she and Marine Corps Cpl. Vanessa Americanhorse organized in July 2011. The league currently has seven teams from all service branches stationed in Hawaii, including two Army teams, two Navy, one Marine, one Air Force and one team made up of players from multiple branches.
“It started out with just the Marines and Navy, but after that first game, it just started to branch out,” Joseph said. “So many girls liked that we could compete in flag football and still be girls.”
Joseph also noted the league is a good outlet for spouses of deployed Soldiers, as it gives them a chance to meet other women from throughout the armed forces while being active outside the household.
“My favorite parts about playing in the league are my teammates,” said Sgt. 1st Class Crystal “Triple Threat” Irby, Headquarters, 8th Sustainment Command, and cornerback/safety for the Vixens, which regularly practice on Hamilton Field, here.
“These ladies are unique in every way,” Irby added. “We have built a sisterhood and a bond that will last the rest of our lives. I love to congratulate them, cheer them on and go out on that field with them.”
Despite the league’s early success, Joseph fears it will one day go the way of other female sports, like basketball and baseball.
“More girls are showing interest, and I love the fact that they want to play and are coming out,” Joseph said. “I just know one day I’ll be stationed somewhere else and have to leave, and I’m worried it will end after that.”
“I hope that this league continues to grow, and I fully encourage military members and spouses to come out and enjoy the game,” Irby said. “I love sports, and there are so many women out there who love sports, as well. We don’t get the chance to play football, and to be afforded the opportunity to go out on the field and play a sport that’s considered a ‘male’ sport is the most amazing feeling ever.”
Hawaii’s Female Flag Football League kicked off its third season Sept. 9 and continues through Nov. 4. Tournament dates are scheduled for Nov. 10 and 11.
The league is open to women ages 18 and up, with no age cap. No experience is necessary, only motivation and drive.
Game schedules, team stats and league information can be found online at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hawaiis-Female-Flag-Football-League/278414942169525.