MS. REBECCA SHEIR
So we're getting closer to the end of the show and we've heard about a rookie cop, a rookie writer, even those rookie soil judges. But there's one kind of rookie we have yet to discuss, the rookie athlete. Eric Wolff introduces us to some new athletes on a new sports team here in Washington D.C., one exclusively dedicated to women.
MR. ERIC WOLFF
You might think the hardest part of taking up tackle football would be the hitting, right?
MS. DEANNA REVELO
I went to slam a couple of girls here and there.
MS. JORDYN WHITE
I loved the hitting, that's kind of when I knew that I was in it to stay once I realized that I could do it, you know, plunge myself full force at someone and we both get up and, you know, shake it off. There's something about that that made me feel kind of invincible.
That was Lydia Melton, Deanna Revelo and Jordyn White, all members of the Washington Prodigy, a women's professional tackle football team formed in September. Members of the Prodigy practice and play their games at Willie Stewart Stadium at Anacostia High School. On a cool Tuesday evening, Prodigy players in full pads and a hodgepodge of different colored jerseys and helmets work in small groups on different parts of the field.
Prodigy owner Tiffany Matthews is a firefighter and a one-time member of the D.C. Divas, which for a decade was the region's only women's pro tackle football team. But the Divas had a long roster and not every player got as much field time as they wanted.
Last summer, Matthews decided to strike out on her own. She applied for a franchise to the Independent Women's Football League, which was looking for a D.C. team. In September, she formed the Prodigy.
MS. TIFFANY MATTHEWS
To me it was really huge, women playing football, wearing the pads and everything.
Joined by her friend and now general manager Jordyn White, Matthews set about selecting a team name, team colors, finding places to play, and all the rest of the details that go into founding an organization. They held tryouts last fall.
It's not really a pass-fail type of thing, like, you fail if you quit. If you just stop and say, "I can't," you know, that's not going to make any team grow.
Most of the women on the team were athletes already. They ran track or played basketball or flag football. For Lydia Melton, a Prodigy wide receiver and professional dancer, football is an extension of her personality.
MS. LYDIA MELTON
We were playing flag and a 6-foot-2 sixth grader came and kind of sort of tackled me by accident but I shook it off and kept moving.
Deanna Revelo had never played football before coming to the Prodigy. She plays as an offensive lineman.
What's been the hardest thing so far?
Trying to learn the plays.
Head Coach Keith Howard says learning football demands more of players' brains than their brawn.
COACH KEITH HOWARD
They don't know, you know, these plays and a whole terminology and all these rules and it's like whoa, I got to really study.
Getting all the players geared up, making sure there's water and most of the other organizational details fall to general manager and player Jordyn White.
I mean, honestly, it feels like I am running, you know, an orphanage. I'm trying to get all of them registered for the first day of school.
White, who's also a former member of the D.C. Divas, is a statistician for the Census Bureau. She's been playing football for nine years. In addition to her organizational responsibilities, she plays both offensive and defensive line. But that's the fun part. She and Matthews have to find a way to raise their $20,000 in annual expenses and they need the players to help.
Fundraising is still definitely like a task that we definitely have to put a lot of energy into every year.
All of the concerns of management fade into white noise as Matthews, White and the Prodigy suit up for their first game, an April 26 home game against the Keystone Assault of Dillsburg, Pa.
The team struggles early, players' nerves got the best of them and a flurry of penalties and miscues leave the Prodigy trailing 12-0 late in the fourth quarter. With 1:07 left on the clock, Prodigy quarterback Kathryn Hemlock runs for the team's first ever touchdown.
Now down only 5 points, Coach Keith Howard calls for an onside kick, a play intended to give the kicking team, in this case the Prodigy, a small chance to get the ball back and run one or two more offensive plays. The kick comes in low over the ground and bounces once, then twice, skipping through the arms of Assault players. For a moment, one Prodigy member seemed to have the ball.
In the end, the Assault retained possession. The clock ran out, and the game ended in defeat, but not despair.
MS. KATHRYN HEMLOCK
Good job ladies. You guys, listen up, listen up. We are so much better than we were than when we started this journey, okay. We are so much better. Just think about how much further we can go.
I'm Eric Wolff.
You can learn more about the Washington Prodigy and check out photos of the team at practice on our website, metroconnection.org.
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