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The Iso Journal: Dominique Watts

With the cancellation of the WNFC 2020 season, our players have had to adjust not only to missing an entire season of football, but also to practicing safe distancing due to a global pandemic. We want to hear about it.

Inspired by The Players’ Tribune, The WNFC is excited to introduce a new blog series, "The Iso Journal", where we catch up with our superstars to find out how they've spent their time in isolation, what they are doing to prepare for the 2021 pre-season, and how they are remaining #WNFCproud off the field.

This was supposed to be it, 2020, my final season. Football was my first love. My favorite thing to read as a 7-year-old was the football section of my grandfather’s encyclopedia set. I couldn’t wait for the day when I’d be allowed to play. This year, I was supposed to complete the journey of what has been one of the greatest honors and joys of my life. I had made as much peace with it as I could. I’m a 38-year-old Defensive Tackle with everything hurt. It was time.

After the 2019 season ended, we went to work. Bandits’ veterans recruited like it was our job! We canvassed malls and Denver Pride Week. I even got out of a half-moving Uber downtown to chase a girl before she disappeared into a club. The plan was to build, and we did.

This team was supposed to rock the WNFC. Then Rona reared her ugly head. At first, I was heartbroken. I think most people were. Then I realized I had an entire year to really get my body together. Not just a six month off-season, but an entire year.

My last dance will be in 2021. Some days that reality brings me to tears. Mostly, it brings me to thankfulness. Not a lot of athletes get to decide when to bow out.

I get to choose. I get to go into every practice watching our new group of talent learn this beautiful game and know it’s in great hands. I get to soak up every moment with teammates I’ve been so grateful to battle alongside. I get to thank this incredible group of men and women who have coached me by suiting up and giving it my final and best effort. I get to have one last chance to lay everything on the line. God willing, I get to do it with plenty of time to get healthy.

I don’t think enough attention is given to athletes’ mental health. As an athlete who has battled depression and anxiety, I’ve learned the hard way how crucial mental, emotional, and spiritual fitness is. To be honest, this pandemic has been tough in that regard.

After about a month off, I recognized how much not having football truly affected me. I had nothing to hit three times a week and no appropriate setting to yell. I couldn’t be around my team, some of whom are my best friends. It didn’t bring out the best version of myself.

Identity was the real problem. I was finding it difficult to anchor myself because so much of my happiness was tied to my identity as a football player.

I had to reconnect to my true purpose. For me, that was remembering who I was in Jesus and how much peace I find in that relationship. Making a conscious effort to read or listen to a sermon everyday has really helped me stay balanced.

My entire goal has been to get as healthy as I possibly can for my final season. A significant back injury in 2018 has reoccurred twice since then. And if I’m being truthful, I’ve played half scared ever since. No more. I will not allow my insecurities about my injured body to turn to regret. I’m not going to look back and wish I had done more to get healthy. I will prepare so I can leave it all on the field.

I am grateful for the slow progression. During this longest of off-seasons, that has looked like physical therapy, a lot of dry needling, and chiropractor visits.

The last few months have been incredibly introspective. I’ve always loved this game and had a deep appreciation for my ability to play it. But during this pandemic, I’ve realized how precious and fragile this opportunity is. You truly never know when it will be taken away. The gift of football is incredible. The wins yield so much joy and the losses so many lessons.

Football changed my life far beyond the lights of Saturday nights. It introduced me to my best friends. It helped me overcome my darkest moments. It gave me such an important platform. These past few months have taught me to be even more thankful for football.

If I had a moment to speak to other football players, current or future, I’d tell them to soak it up. Enjoy all of it, as much as you possibly can. The window we have to play this game doesn’t stay open forever. Cherish it. Every practice you are suffering through sprints, cherish it. Every crazy, long, crowded van ride to an away game, cherish it. Every time your coach gets in your face, cherish it. This is a gift.

It’s hard and it’s supposed to be. But when it’s all said and done, you will have done something only a small group of women will ever do. It’ll be one of the greatest things you’ll ever look back on.

The product we are about to unveil to the world is going to be better than we could’ve imagined in 2020. With additions to our league and every team having a year to fine tune, the 2021 WNFC season is going to be ridiculously amazing.

Everyone who knows me, knows I don’t like anyone who isn’t wearing Denver’s black and red. If I had to pick one other team I’m most excited to watch, I’d have to say Las Cruces. Between you and I, Las Cruces is a team I secretly root for. I’ve played against them in years past in another league and those competitions were my favorite. I’m excited to see them make the step up to the WNFC.

But don’t get it twisted, Denver will be ready. We are BUILT.

Dominique Watts #54 DL

Denver Bandits


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