By Derek Fleming, staff writer, WNFC
It’s no secret that every one of the ladies who line up on Saturdays to play WNFC football is a “tough mother,” but we want to take a moment to celebrate the real tough mothers in the league who manage to find a way to balance being a footballer with raising children.
Among the many things we heard from players about the challenges of raising children and playing football, one recurring theme was that despite the challenges of scheduling and missing time with their kids, the love of the game and the camaraderie makes the difficulties worth it.
“It's easy to feel selfish for taking time to actually do something for yourself,” said Seattle Majestics’ Molly Testor. “Honestly, playing football has just helped me be a better mom because it has had such a positive impact on my mental health. You know, just being able to go out and do something and be a part of something other than household duties.”
Las Vegas Silver Stars’ Barbie Davis agreed that being a good football player also translates to being a good mom and raising good kids.
“I needed to realize that in order to be a better mom, you have to be able to love yourself, first,” Davis said. “You have to be the best version of yourself as a human, as a person, as a woman, in order to then have that kind of trickle-down into how you are as a parent. So football has been nothing but therapy for me. It has gotten me in better shape, which helps with my self-esteem. It's given me a purpose that really is just for me, it's a team sport, but I do it because I kick ass at it.”
Davis added that her two boys are growing up watching their mom play and that she hopes it will give them a better appreciation for women and the sport as they grow up.
Mississippi Lady Panthers’ English Bennett knows firsthand how big of an impact watching a mom play football can have on children. She has two daughters that she is raising while playing. Her oldest daughter, who is now 10, also plays the sport, while her younger daughter is a cheerleader for her sister's team.
“It's basically trying to balance my work life with my football schedule and my girl's football schedule as well,” Bennett said. “I can say it's definitely gotten easier. The more I've been going and getting my schedule together as far as work and leaving on the weekends for games and things like that. Whenever we have home games, they're there with me, and when we have away games, if it's not too far, they enjoy the experience of being in another state.”
Texas Elite Spartans’ Deana Guidry said that her two daughters, now 12 and 14, have grown up as part of the sport, first with the LA Amazons and the San Diego Surge and now with Texas. Her daughters even participate as the water girls at games and the family travels together to games which gives them time together despite hectic schedules.
“We have a nice calendar where we put all of our items and schedules up when we're traveling when we have tournaments when there's track meets, all that good stuff,” Guidry said. “We make it work and I think, subconsciously, I like to keep it busy like that. You know having somewhere new to go, everything is just constant. It's a constant go. But we like to go, we make it work.”
While some of the mothers have raised their children around the sport, others are just starting, and the experiences of their fellow teammates help to give them the confidence to get out on the field every week.
“This year is technically my first season. I was on the roster last season. That would have been my first season but I got pregnant in February,” said Mississippi Lady Panthers’ KaNesha Sheriff. She related the challenges of practicing, playing, and traveling with a breastfeeding infant. “It's a big sacrifice and it's a lot but I enjoy it. This game is so fun, I love that I play football, I am totally into football now.”
For some players, the decision of how to balance family life with football has led to the decision to step away from the game for periods of time. Philly Phantomz’ Latasha Richardson said that her first year playing the sport was also the first year of the team, but after finding out that she was going to be a mother, she decided to push pause on her playing days.
“I took those years off and my coach Star Wright kind of asked me over the years to come back and play and it was always no no, no, no, no,” Richardson said. “I wasn't in shape. I wasn't prepared. I wasn't mentally ready. After having my daughter, I just couldn’t fit in football. This year, I was like ‘You know, I’m probably in the best shape I’ve been in in eight years, and I think I’m prepared to play. My daughter, of course, is always first, she is with me most of the time when she isn’t at preschool, so it’s been a little hectic.”
Like many of the moms, Richardson said that playing is something that lets her fit in time for herself in the midst of all the craziness.
When life outside football becomes serious, the WNFC family steps up. Last season, Houston Heat’s Pam Adams found out that her youngest daughter had lymphoma.
“Being a mom and a football player, and being part of the WNFC family football team, was most definitely a blessing because I was at the hospital, my daughter was in the hospital for weeks at a time to receive treatment and everything,” Adams said. “My teammates would pick me up from the hospital, they made sure I got to practice and when I travel, I have family that stays with her.”
Adams said that her two older sons were very helpful and supportive, catering to their younger sister to take some of the stress from their mom.
She added that being part of the team and continuing to play while dealing with the fear and uncertainty of having a seriously ill child was therapeutic.
“This is for my mental health, you know, out of nowhere, your child's diagnosed, you still got to do stuff for you. I'm still getting out, being physical and releasing the stress that I had, any sadness that I had that was around my family, my football family just checking on me and making sure my daughter was good.”
Adams teammates sponsored her this season, allowing her the opportunity to continue playing. Her daughter’s lymphoma is in remission. She added that no matter what is happening in a player’s life, they all support each other.
San Diego Rebellion’s Keiloni Kalasa is playing in her rookie season and is learning first-hand how difficult juggling schedules can be, but it doesn’t dampen her desire to be on the field with her teammates.
“Basically, I was home all the time, mom on demand. Now I have practice and away games that pull me out of that norm,” Kalasa said. “Because of their age, they took a while to fully understand what was going on. But I remember distinctly when my daughter first realized that someone on the football field was "her" mom. Their excitement to see me in the uniform and at the games makes me proud of what I do. That just makes it all the more worth it for me.”
Davis also shared that one of her favorite things is that her kids are obsessed with her jersey number, and their excitement is one of the things that fuels her passion.
“I bring them to practice and they can see mommy’s Number 99, and they can see me doing something that’s legitimately cool,” Davis said “They don't understand the boundaries that we're breaking every time we hit the field. They just think you know, Mommy does something cool.”
The WNFC is immensely proud of all the player's past, present, and future, and appreciates the work and sacrifice put in by so many to be on the field and at practice every week. All of the women are tough mothers, and we think that our players who are also mothers deserve to get a special shout-out this Mother’s Day.