Tackle Football in the Spring � It�s All About the Women

As I prepared to write a story about the KC Storm women�s tackle football team, I incorrectly assumed it was a fall sport. (I�m not exactly an expert on sports, whether male or female.) Only after talking to Nancy Wernes, founder of the KC Storm women�s football team, and visiting their website did I realize that they play a spring schedule and that their first game of the season was April 23.

Coming off an undefeated 2010 season, the two-time champions will be playing games locally and in surrounding cities in the Midwest. In addition to KC Storm, there are two other female tackle football teams in Kansas City, the Spartans and Tribe. KC Storm plays their games at the Kansas City North High School. Ticket prices for their games are $10, with children under 14 admitted free. Wernes said that many families come to watch the women�s football teams compete, which can be great for teen self-esteem.

Wernes founded KC Storm in 2004, and the team�s first season was 2005. She says she was no stranger to football because she comes from a family with a sports background. She herself has two children, a 16-year-old son and a 15-year-old daughter.

�When they were younger, they loved to come to the games. He�s been the water boy, he�s even announced, so he�s done stuff. My daughter, she�s really not as much of a football fan, so she likes to work in the concession stand,� she laughed. �They�re fun.�

Although Wernes has played with the team as a tight end and defensive end, she is not planning to play this year, she said.

KC Storm also uses coaches, and that�s not her role, she said. �I certainly help when I can, but I don�t profess to be a coach. I help to develop the players any way I can. We always try to develop players at least on two positions, one offensive, one defensive, in case we have times to go both ways. We call that Ironman Football,� she said.

Wernes said that although she always had an interest in football, she never had much of a chance to play when she was younger. �The educational system here in the United States really doesn�t support women playing, even post-Title IX. We do sometimes have women that have come from smaller high schools or some environments where they have had some experience playing, typically with guys, so it�s not an ideal situation for them. So that�s what�s nice about this that I�m able to provide a much better experience for the women because they�re playing against women.�

Wernes said the age of the players varies. �This year it is a little younger, mid to late 20s is average. We�ve got an 18-year-old and a couple that are in their 40s.� Players sign waivers and are expected to be in good health. They also have nurses and occasionally doctors at the game along with a massage person, trainer and even sometimes a chiropractor. Sometimes, Wernes said, pregnancy causes a player to sit out a season.

Wernes has spoken at the Lesbian and Gay Community Center annual organizations meetings about KC Storm, but it is not identified as a lesbian team. Of the sexual orientation of the team members, Wernes said, �It�s diverse. I think that�s part of the richness of the experience, because it�s a diverse team and we welcome that diversity. Whether it be the age or economic background, and we can do that because we keep our costs down so that we do appeal to an economic background that can�t do other things. We embrace the diversity and we think that�s better for the experience.�

�We ask the community for support, but we also give. We do some volunteer work. We�re a member of the Kansas City Sports Commission and we always do Camp Win, which is a two-week girls� summer camp.�

Wernes is excited about the 2011 Care Bowl on May 21 benefiting the Derrick Thomas Academy, a public school in Kansas City, Mo. This will be a match between the KC Storm and the KC Jazz women�s rugby team. The Kansas City Roller Warriors roller derby team will also make guest appearances.

�The Storm is helping the Derrick Thomas Academy raise $20,000,� Wernes said. �The Kansas City Jazz women�s rugby team is going to come to Kansas City North High School on May 21, and we�re going to have a half where we play football against the rugby girls and see how we do, and then we�re going to have a half where we play rugby against the rugby girls and see how we do. So the fans will get to see both.� Tickets are $10 for adults, and children under 14 are free.

Wernes said that although this year�s season has begun, players can still join for this year, and of course for 2012, because even in the current season, some players get injured or drop out and there are openings. �In fact, we have had college teams come into town in May and join up at that time.�

The KC Storm�s next game will be May 7 at Kansas City North High School. To learn more about KC Storm or their season schedule, visit www.kcstorm.com.

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