A different look for football

Portland’s women’s football team getting into the mix this spring

Football season begins and ends in the fall for most Portland State students, but if one is willing to go a little off the beaten path, football is still happening in the Portland metro area. When NFL and NCAA football end in January and February, the women of the Portland Shockwave, Portland’s Independent Women’s Football League team, start revving up for their new season.

Portland’s women’s football team getting into the mix this spring

Football season begins and ends in the fall for most Portland State students, but if one is willing to go a little off the beaten path, football is still happening in the Portland metro area. When NFL and NCAA football end in January and February, the women of the Portland Shockwave, Portland’s Independent Women’s Football League team, start revving up for their new season.

Turf wars: 10-year veteran running back Rebecca Dawson takes a carry against Seattle, the Shockwaves’ long-running rival. The Shockwave will take on the Majestics three times this season.
Karl Kuchs / Vanguard Staff
Turf wars: 10-year veteran running back Rebecca Dawson takes a carry against Seattle, the Shockwaves’ long-running rival. The Shockwave will take on the Majestics three times this season.

The team kicked off its 2012 season a few weeks ago and held its first home game April 21 against rivals Seattle Majestics at its home field, Hillsboro Stadium.

“It’s our second family,” co-owner Rebecca Brisson said. “We’re together at least three times a week, sometimes four, playing hard, practicing hard, watching game film, eating dinners together, that sort of thing. It’s a lot of fun.”

Brisson was there when the team was founded 11 years ago, and, in addition to managing the team, she also plays at the wide receiver and defensive back positions.

“It’s kind of like being family on this team. I think that’s why I keep coming back,” third-year tight end and linebacker Jessica Schmidt said. “This sport is awesome, but it’s brutal. But the people on the team are what really keep me coming back here.”

The Shockwave was one of the first teams when the IWFL was founded 12 years ago. The IWFL is a nonprofit national organization, much like the national league the Rose City Rollers play in. There are currently 41 IWFL teams in North America and two teams in the Pacific Northwest Division, where the Shockwave plays.

The IWFL uses a modified version of the NCAA football ruleset. There’s a 40-second play clock and no blocking below the waist, but for the most part, the Shockwave play the same brand of football you could see at Jeld-Wen Field or Autzen Stadium.

Since the team is nonprofit, the players, who range in age from 18 to mid-40s, have to fit play time in between work and school. Because of this, the team can’t meet for practices as often as teams at other levels of football can.

“That’s one reason I really like this style of football,” fourth-year head coach Mike Hasart said. “Because you never really know what’s going to happen. And it’s really fun. We really enjoy it.”

The team plays their home games at Hillsboro Stadium. A single adult game ticket is $10 and season tickets are $35. The team holds fundraisers throughout the year to raise money to supplement ticket sales to pay for uniforms, trips and other expenses.

“It’s a great community,” Schmidt said. “It’s great for women to know what it feels like to be empowered. We haven’t had a lot of opportunities to know our strength—our physical strength. And so to come out here and know that you can do that and keep pushing and be stronger than you ever imagined—it’s a pretty phenomenal feeling.”

Schmidt is a graduate student at Portland State. She said she originally joined the team with her roommate but ended up staying with the team after her roommate quit.

“My first year was brutal,” Schmidt said. “I remember coming here with coffee, trying to read the playbook, trying to do my homework. I did homework with a headlamp on our road trips to California. I did stats in the back seat of the car for eight hours trying to balance it all. But it’s worth it. [This sport] keeps your sanity.”

Near the end, the team’s home opener came to a stop as Brisson fell to the turf after an awkward collision with a Seattle player. She got up and was able to finish out the game. Schmidt said injuries are part of the game.

“I dislocated my knee, broken a couple fingers—half the team tore their ACLs last year,” Schmidt said. “It’s definitely something we worry about, but I don’t think it can be something that stops you. Like I said, I think you find incredible strength in knowing how strong you are and coming back from that and being stronger than you were.”

The team is actively recruiting, and interested students can get the information on the team’s next tryouts by e-mailing [email protected]

The Shockwave lost their home opener to Seattle in a tough 7-13 match that ended in an offensive drive that finished just short of giving the Shockwave a winning touchdown. Their next home game will be May 12 at 6 p.m. Tickets can be purchased on game day or on portlandshockwave.com.

“It was a tough loss,” Schmidt said. “We haven’t lost to Seattle in a couple years, so that’s tough, but I think we can all hold our heads up high with pride and say, ‘We got better.’ Better than the first game; better than the second game, and we still have a long way to go.”