Dallas’ lesbian-owned and -managed women’s football team had a Cinderella season in 2015 … well, almost
JONANNA WIDNER | Contributing Writer
On Aug. 8, members of the Dallas Elite arrived at a stadium at Southwest College in Los Angeles, Calif., with one goal in mind: To win a championship.
Part of the 48-member National Women’s Football Alliance, the Elite is Dallas’ professional women’s football team — and not “football” as in what-the-rest-of-the-world-calls-soccer; football as in full-teams, full-pads, full-tackle. They don’t mess around.
The tight-knit squad has only been together since 2014, but they’ve made a mark quickly, crushing a number of opponents during the league’s eight-game 2015 season, going undefeated and earning the spot in what is essentially the Super Bowl of women’s football.
But they fell just short.
The D.C. Divas topped the Elite, with a heartbreaking score of 30-26.
Still, the defeat didn’t diminish the team’s dedication. After all, this is a team committed enough to open their wallets just to get on the field. Each player pays fees of $850 to play, which go toward uniforms and equipment; the squad started a GoFundMe.com campaign to pay for their trip to the championship. They practice well after dusk, occasionally popping their fingers back into place after an awkward tackle.
The players’ love of football, says team owner, head coach and running back Odessa Jenkins, comes from a place bigger than the gridiron.
“It’s a microcosm of life,” she says. “You can be aggressive, and there’s still the strategy of it all. It’s gladiator-like: I put my starters against your starters, your strength against my strength.”
The team has culled members from three other North Texas women’s teams: the Arlington Impact, Lone Star Mustangs and the Dallas Diamonds. (The Diamonds are the former team of Dr. Jennifer Welter, who recently was hired by the Arizona Cardinals as a coaching intern, making her the first female NFL coach in history.) The Mustangs and the Diamonds are now disbanded.
“There hasn’t been a powerhouse in Dallas in a long time,” notes Jenkins. The Elite, however, have already established themselves as force to be reckoned with. The team regularly crushes lesser teams by huge margins (as in, 64-0).
According to Jenkins, the Elite pull about 400 spectators into Alfred J. Rose stadium for games during the regular season, which lasts from April to June. The playoffs run from mid-June to early August.
During that time, there are also day jobs, practices, fundraising. It’s a hard grind. But Jenkins says it’s a joyful one.
“There’s a feeling that you just can’t explain,” she says. “It’s just being completely transparent. It teaches you so much about life.”
Next season, Jenkins hopes to secure enough sponsorships that the players don’t have to shell money out of their own pockets. And she has another goal.
“I won’t be satisfied with anything less than a championship in 2016,” she says.
The Dallas Elite will be holding open tryouts on Sept. 13. To learn more about the tryouts, or the team generally, visit DallasEliteFootball.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 11, 2015.