Monthly Archives: February 2004
Football is one of the fastest-growing professional sports for women athletes in the United States, expanding from a grand total of only three teams in 1999 to more than 100 across the country in 2004. The New York Sharks, a member of the Independent Women’s Football League, is currently home to 50 female football players from the tri-state area – and they’re ranked tops in the country!
It was at the commencement of their 2002 season that I first learned about the NY Sharks and, for that matter, that there were women playing tackle football right in our own backyard. Contrary to what some may think, the NY Sharks is a team made up of mothers, lawyers, construction workers, police officers, and students – not just a squad of 50 hulking Amazons or, even more dismissively, just “a bunch of dykes.”
Though hailing from all walks of life, each teammate shares a passion for football. The players pay to play, to the tune of more than $1000 each, to contribute to the cost of the team’s expenses. This diverse group of strong women’s enthusiasm for competition and teamwork showed brilliantly in 2002, when the undefeated Sharks won the National Championship.
The team is owned by Andra Douglas, 45, who also plays on the field, and was named 2004 Female Athlete of the Year by the Nassau County Sports Commission. After purchasing the team in 1999, she brought on Crystal Turpin, who as general manager (and also a football player) is responsible for running the day-to-day business side of the Sharks. Turpin also organized the Sharon Pascale mini-camp, named for the Sharks’ late teammate who was killed in a car accident in 2001. The camp teaches football and basketball skills to girls aged 7-17, proving that the Sharks believe in supporting sportsmanship and community on – and off – the field.
Some of the Sharks have been teammates for more than a decade, extending to an era when women were only allowed to play flag football. Turpin, a receiver, is one of them, and most of the teammates have backgrounds in college athletics. This season, Douglas (#7) takes the position of kicker after several seasons as a backup quarterback. She had been a place kicker on the Florida State University rugby team, where she brought them to two national championships, one owed to her winning kick in overtime. When a rookie kicker happened to miss a Sharks practice session, Douglas realized that her legs were still in fighting shape.
This year, Douglas has hired a new set of coaches and is welcomimg back many committed players from last season. Lori DeVivio (#22), Lynn Lewis (#56), Dana Donahue Sparling (#81), Kimberly Bishop (#78), Lakisha Grant (#36), Kathy Holloman (#1) and Donna Spilotras (#60) all were out for the 2003 season, some due to injuries, but they are returning to the action this year. Incidentally, Douglas is the oldest “Sharkie,” while 19-year-old veteran Theresa Schirrippa (#3) is the youngest.
The NY Sharks are set to conquer the competition in their fifth season. Home games will be played on the football field of August Martin High School, 156-10 Baisley Blvd., in Jamaica, New York. Ticket prices are $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. For more information, visit the NY Sharks’ website at nysharksfootball.com
by Merle Exit from GO NYC