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Women American Football Players Defy Tradition


American football has long been a man's sport. But there are women football players who want to show the world what they can do.

VOA June Soh has the story of a women's football team based in the nation's capital called the DC Divas. Her story is narrated by Amy Katz.

After a long off-season break, outdoor training for the DC Divas has begun.

The 55-team members gather three times a week to practice.

Player Allyson Hamlin plays quarterback and says she has other responsibilities, but enjoys playing football. "I think the hardest thing for us is that we all have jobs. We all have day jobs. A lot of people have kids. A lot of people have families. We all sacrifice greatly for six months."

Allyson is the offensive leader - of the DC Divas, and is a police officer. Other players are doctors, lawyers, teachers and engineers with various athletic backgrounds.

Donna Wilkinson, a wellness consultant, played traditional female sports from the time she was five. She dropped them all to play for the Divas. "Football was always all I have ever wanted to do. I knew from a very young age that that was exciting, that was fun. I liked what it looked like. And the game is a beautiful game."

Donna is a linebacker -- a defensive player -- and her nickname is "The Animal". "When I am out on the field, it is the animal. I mean everything is on; adrenalin is pumping. You see running backs come into the home you just want to crack them. It is just a great feeling. It is rush and it is high. But it is intense and focused. It is just a great place to be."

The DC Divas, formed with players from the Washington DC area, debuted in the National Women's Football Association, NWFA, in 2001. The league was founded the previous year with just two teams. Since then it has expanded and now there are 33 teams competing for the 2006 championship.

Ezra Cooper is the head coach. "The essence of the Diva football, it is mainly, it is comradery. It is working together as a team. We had a good team last year. We got very close. We made it through the championship game. We had to travel to Detroit for the championship game."

Despite their success, the players often encounter puzzled reactions from people.

Team captain Raynette Savoy is a chemist for a pharmaceutical company. "They look at me and think that I am crazy. I am very feminine. I love being a woman. When they see me with long hair and in cute little dresses and high heels, they can't believe I am a football player. They think I am a cheerleader."

Ms. Hamlin says people watch in disbelief. "A lot of people don't believe that women play football. But if you see it, then you will believe it."

The Divas are determined to win the championship this year and show the world what they can do, very soon.

Ms. Wilkinson is waiting on the day when the sport will be embraced worldwide. "One day all over the world. You are going to be able to see on TV women play just like you see the guys. It is the same sport. You will just have a chance to see us. I really look forward to that day."

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