Women’s Professional Football League Stories

Jose Orozco
The Paw Print

Women’s history is a subject that is often left out of public school lesson plans, but on Wednesday night Dr. “Beez” LeaAnn Schell gave a “Herstory” of women in sports.
The topic was football, but more specifically women’s professional football. The title of the presentation was, “not Lingerie or Fantasy: A year in the Independent Women’s Professional Football League”. Real American Football, played by women, was the main point.
The oppressing and objectifying forces women face in sports was brought to light with the display of pictures flooding the screen. The typical Sports Illustrated version of women over-exposed and displaying seductive poses were abruptly opposed by photos of fierce, strong, independent women in their full football uniforms.
The lecture began with a woman’s pro football passed to the audience in the lecture hall. This ball was much smaller than the typical pro football which Schell described as being “adjusted.” The total gear was on display at the front of the room and featured shoulder pads, helmet, and a football.
A female volunteer from the crowd was more than happy to provide a demonstration of how to suit up in the gear. Schell called the entire uniform a “super suit” because of how she felt when she wore them the first time.
To understand more about this lecture, a “herstory” of woman in sports, a history of football in the U. S., and how these topics intersected paths were all discussed. Women’s professional football has a history that coincides with the early days of the NFL, though not as glorious or well known. In the early 1900s, women’s football was often played during halftime games for the NFL demonstrating women’s fight against oppression in sports. One instance of a woman player in history is Patricia Barzi Palinkas who was signed onto the Orlando Panthers for the NFL in the 1970’s.
Women’s pro football has gone through many organization changes in its history. The Women’s Professional Football League (WPFL) was the longest lasting women’s pro football organization. When the WPFL dissolved, the National Women’s Football League (NWFL) soon came to life. Today the Independent Women’s Football League (IWFL) is one of the more well known, and was the league in which Schell played.
Title IX also helped with women’s rights and equity of sports for women. Schell discussed how this was important to the “herstory” of women in sports. She also mentioned how Title IX is not specific to sports.  Title IX reads, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance…”
Schell showed video of interview with some of her team members about their involvement in the IWFL. The video clips were supplemented by Schell’s experience. She spoke of the average age of her team mates, which were in their early 20’s. Schell herself played second string quarterback and special teams in games. She described practice as she was involved in all positions. Shell finished the presentation with why she decided to play football. “I grew up in a small rural isolated area… My family played football… Rugby was for people from Europe…”

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