PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The longest-operating football team in the United States just happens to exist in Oregon.
And all of its members are women.
The Portland Fighting Shockwave is a full-contact football team gearing up to start its 19th season. More than a dozen women tried out for the team on Nov. 19 at Wilson High School.
No experience is required to join the team. Team hopefuls are tested for their shuttle skills, field goal attempts and running routes.
“There’s no confusion, this is not lingerie football, this is tackle football,” said Tess Bair who’s been on the team for 10 years. “We wear full pads, we hit people hard.”
The team is part of the Women’s Football Alliance and is considered the top team in the west out of 60. The team finished 7 and 1 in 2018 but this year, the new head coach is eyeing a championship, as well as cultural change.
“It is about building more than just a football team; we’re building a football community around women who are playing football,” said Coach Asia Wisecarver, who started playing football in 7th grade.
The players are also professional multi-taskers.
“With women’s football, everyone is doing five different things; they’re full-time moms, they have jobs, so often times their kids are at practice,” Wisecarver said.
She explained that, for her, the allure of the sport lies in its ability to engage players on physical and intellectual levels.
“I love the intellectual complexity of it and the fact that it’s all hidden behind this veil of rough and violent thing but when you strip that away, it’s so complex and so intellectually stimulating,” she said.
Wisecarver, who is also the director of the nonprofit Play Works, said the players join the team for a wide variety of reasons.
“People were talking about needing to find who they were, other people needed a community,” she said. “Some people were DV survivors and they needed to take back the power in their lives, others had dreamed their whole lives of wanting to be a football player but didn’t know they could ever have that opportunity.”
The Portland Fighting Shockwave season starts in April and includes 10 games. And the team has its eye on a new challenger: the Oregon Raven’s is another women’s full-contact football team gearing up to start its first season.
But Coach Wisecarver said the team will be ready.
“Between the lines, we will be the toughest, most well-conditioned. We will be aggressive in all the ways we need to be successful but we will also pick you up when we knock you down. We will encourage you when you get hurt or going through adversity,” she said.
The Portland Fighting Shockwave is holding another round of tryouts on December 7.
“If you want to try something new — you might get pushed around, you might get bumps and bruises — but overall, it’s totally worth it,” said Bair.
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