Women's gridiron football, more commonly known as women's American football, women's Canadian football, or simply women's football, is a form of gridiron football (American or Canadian) played by women. Most leagues play by the same rules as their male counterparts, with one exception: women's leagues use a slightly smaller football. Women primarily play on a semi-professional or amateur level in the United States. Very few high schools or colleges offer the sport solely for women and girls; however, on occasion, it is permissible for a female player to join the otherwise male team.
The first evidence of women playing organized football was in 1926. It was then that an NFL team called the Frankford Yellow Jackets (the predecessors to the modern Philadelphia Eagles) employed a women's team for halftime entertainment.
Leagues play American football unless otherwise noted.
Of the women who have seen action in men's college and pro football, almost all have been in special teams positions that are protected from physical contact. The first professional player was a placekick holder (a traditionally trivial position usually occupied by a person who holds another position on the team), while the best known female college football players were all placekickers, with all having primarily played women's soccer prior to converting.
Patricia Palinkas is on record as being the first female professional football player, having played for the Orlando Panthers of the Atlantic Coast Football League in 1970. Palinkas was a placekick holder for her placekicker husband.
On October 18, 1997, Liz Heaston became the first woman to play and score in a college football game, kicking two extra points. Prior to this game, female athletes at Duke and Louisville had come close to playing in a game but did not. In 2001, Ashley Martin became the second female athlete to score in a college football game, this time in the NCAA.
In 2003, Katie Hnida became the first female athlete to score in a Division I-A bowl game; she later became the second professional player when she signed with the Fort Wayne FireHawks. Julie Harshbarger, a placekicker for numerous Chicago-based Continental Indoor Football League teams, became the first female player to win a most valuable player award in an otherwise all-male league in 2014; by kicking five field goals that season, she earned the title of special teams player of the year, leading all kickers in the league in scoring; with a career spanning seven seasons, Harshbarger's career was the longest documented of any woman playing in a predominantly men's professional league. Jennifer Welter became the first female skill position player at the male professional level by playing as a running back in the Texas Revolution in 2014.
To date, no women have ever tried to play a line position at a position above the high school level. Holley Mangold, whose brother Nick played several years in the NFL and who herself played as a linewoman in high school, declined to further pursue football in college, fearing she had no chance to play professionally as a woman; she later went on to become an Olympic weightlifter.
Brittanee Jacobs is the first female football coach at the collegiate level. She helped coach safeties at Central Methodist University during the 2012 season. Welter would become the first female coach at the professional level when she took a preseason position with the Arizona Cardinals in 2015; a year later, Kathryn Smith, who had spent several years as a front office assistant, took a quality control coaching position with the Buffalo Bills, making her the first permanent female coach in National Football League history.
To date, only one woman has ever attempted to join the NFL: Lauren Silberman, who received a tryout to a scouting combine in 2013. Silberman had never played the game before and botched her tryout, leading observers to assume the tryout was a publicity stunt.
The world governing body for American football associations, the International Federation of American Football (IFAF), held the first ever Women's World Cup in Stockholm, Sweden, in 2010. Six nations participated in the inaugural event: Austria, Canada, Finland, Germany, Sweden, and the United States. The United States won the gold by beating Canada, 66-0. The Women's World Championship is on the 4 year schedule with other international games. The 2013 World Championship, in Finland, was held from 30 June 2013 to 7 July 2013. The USA won gold again, beating Sweden 84-0 and Germany 107-7 in order to make it to the gold medal match with Canada, whom they beat 64-0. In the 2017 IFAF Women's World Championship, held in Canada, the six teams invited were; Australia, Canada, Finland, Great Britain, Mexico and the United States. The US continued their dominance, claiming gold, while Canada and Mexico won silver and bronze respectively. Plans for the 2021 WWC are currently underway with a host country yet to be selected.
The American Football Women's League (AFWL) which debuted on May 15, 2002, was one of the first women's football leagues formed, originally using the name WAFL, or Women's American Football League in 2001. The AFWL officially disbanded in March 2003, due to money and attendance problems.Austin Acoustic
The Austin Acoustic is a Women's American Football team, that plays in the Legends Football League. They play their home games at Cedar Park Center. The name Acoustic was chosen from local fan submissions. The Acoustic were one of three teams that joined the LFL in 2016, along with the Dallas Desire and New England Liberty.Carolina Queens
The Carolina Queens are a women's American football team based out of Charlotte, North Carolina playing in the Independent Women's Football League and owned by Ebony Kimbrough. Home games are played on the campus of Hopewell High School.
From 2005–2007, the Queens were part of the Women's Professional Football League.Independent Women's Football League
The Independent Women's Football League (IWFL) is a full-contact Women's American football league that was founded in 2000 and began play in 2001. It is one of three 11-on-11 U.S. football leagues for women, along with the Women's Football Alliance and the United States Women's Football League, and the oldest of the three. Laurie Frederick, Deborah DelToro, and K Disney are the league's founders.
The players are not paid to play; on the contrary, players must contribute funds to cover part of their expenses.Jacksonville Dixie Blues
The Jacksonville Dixie Blues are a women's American football team based in Jacksonville, Florida. Founded in 2001, they are currently members of the Women's Football Alliance (WFA), playing their home games on the campus of University Christian School.LFL World Bowl
The Lingerie Football League World Bowl will be an international American football competition contested by the champions of four women's 7-on-7 tackle leagues: Legends Football League, LFL Canada, LFL Australia, and LFL Europe. It will take place every four years. The inaugural tournament is scheduled be held in São Paulo, Brazil on July 19, 2014, while the two winners of the games will play against each other a day later.Ladies Gridiron League
The Ladies Gridiron League (LGL) is an Australian-based non-for-profit company running a full contact, 7-a-side, women's American football league. It was created in March 2012 with an overall aim of developing American football upon Australian shores. It is an exclusively run, invite only competition with a focus on professionalism, athleticism and fun. The league aim is “to create a fun and competitive environment that supports the development of females in sport and raises the awareness of Gridiron in Australia. The LGL aims to establish a female Gridiron community that has the ability to mentor people in need, promote fairness, teamwork and respect.”Maritime Women's Football League
The Maritime Women's Football League is a Canadian football league in eastern Canada. It was Canada's first all-female full-contact football competition when it began operating in 2004.
Since it was established, the League has grown from two to four teams. They hail from the three major cities of New Brunswick (Fredericton, Moncton, and Saint John) along with a team from Halifax, Nova Scotia. The current MWFL title holders are the Saint John Storm.Montreal Blitz
The Montreal Blitz is a women's American football team in the Women's Football Alliance. They are based at Dalbé-Viau High School in the borough of Lachine, in Montreal, Quebec. They are the only Canadian team in a women's American football league. The team won four championships in the Independent Women's Football League, at various levels. Their highest achievement came in 2012 when the beat the Sacramento Sirens 28-27 to become World Champions of the IWFL.The Blitz were created in 2001. In 2004 Quarterback Saadia Ashraf bought the team from the original owners. In 2015, the management of the team was transferred from Saadia Ashraf to Football Féminin Blitz de Montréal, a non-profit created to run the team. They played in the IWFL until 2016, when they decided to leave the league due to financial and travel constraints.National Women's Football Association
The National Women's Football Association (NWFA) was a full-contact American football league for women headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. The league was founded by Catherine Masters in 2000, as the two benchmark teams, the Alabama Renegades and the Nashville Dream played each other six times in exhibition games. The opening season was in 2001 featuring ten teams. The NWFA did not officially field any teams for the 2009 season.
The NWFA was originally called the National Women's Football League, but changed its name after the 2002 season. The name change came after pressure from the National Football League. The NFL also required the league to change the logos of some teams whose logos resembled those of NFL teams.
League founder Catherine Masters was inducted into the American Football Association's Semi Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.Pittsburgh Rebellion
The Pittsburgh Rebellion is a women's American football team based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The team is the 21st franchise of the Legends Football League (LFL).Seattle Majestics
The Seattle Majestics are a Women's American football team based in Seattle, Washington. The Seattle Majestics play in the Western Conference, Pacific Northwest Division of the Women's Football Alliance. Home games are played at French Field on the campus of Kent Meridian High School in Kent, Washington.
The team began as the Tacoma Majestics in 2002 before moving to Seattle in 2006 and merging with the former Women's American Football League franchise, the Seattle Warbirds.The franchise is currently owned by Scott McCarron. Sponsorships and fundraising under the team's non-profit 501c3 status provide finances for the team, but players also have to contribute.The Seattle Majestics have won the WFA's Pacific Northwest Division title four times, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. The Seattle Majestics also won the IWFL's Northwest Division title six times, from 2003 to 2005 and again from 2007 from 2009. The team has also had the distinction of entertaining the crowd at Qwest Field prior to the kickoff of the Seattle Seahawks and has been featured on ESPN. After the conclusion of the 2017 season, the Seattle Majestics moved back to the IWFL.Sweden women's national American football team
The Sweden women's national American football team is the official American football senior national team of Sweden.United States Women's Football League
The United States Women's Football League (USWFL) is a full-contact women's American football league that opened with exhibition play in 2010 and subsequently played its first regular season in 2011. The league was known as the "Women's Spring Football League" from 2009–2015. It is the newest of three full-contact, 11-on-11 football leagues for women, along with the Independent Women's Football League and the Women's Football Alliance.
The USWFL played with 11-player and 8-player divisions from 2011 through 2013. In 2014, the league split into two leagues, with the 11-woman division retaining the WSFL name and the 8-woman division taking the name the Women's Eights Football League (W8FL). In 2016, the league played only 11-woman football with the Cincinnati Sizzle taking the league crown.Western Women's Canadian Football League
The Western Women's Canadian Football League (WWCFL) is a full-contact women's Canadian football league which began play in the spring of 2011. The league plays an annual season in the spring or summer, and with 8 teams it is the largest women's football league in Canada. The teams play 12-women tackle football games using the Football Canada rules, somewhat similar to those of the CFL. The league has teams in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta (the prairie provinces of Canada).Women's American Football League
The Women's American Football League (WAFL) was a women's American football league that was formed in 2001. After disbanding, the teams merged with the Women's Affiliated Football Conference (WAFC), the Independent Women's Football League (IWFL), Women's Football Association (WFA), and the American Football Women's League (AFWL), itself now disbanded.Women's Football Alliance
The Women's Football Alliance (WFA) is a full-contact Women's American football league that began play in 2009. It is one of three full-contact, 11-on-11 football leagues for women, along with the Independent Women's Football League and the United States Women's Football League, and the largest of the three. The league is owned and operated by Jeff and Lisa King of Exeter, California.Women's Football League
The Women's Football League was a small women's American football league that began playing in 2002. Its last season was in 2007. It was composed of four teams, one in Grand Rapids, Michigan, one in Tennessee, one in North Carolina, and one in Jacksonville, Florida (Jacksonville Dixie Blues), who now play in the Women's Football Alliance.
Teams included the Jacksonville Blues, Kentucky Force, Mississippi Rapids and Tennessee Heat
Former teams included the Alabama Racers, Atlanta Xtreme, DC Slammers, Fayetteville Thunder, Florida Typhoons, Louisiana Gators, Memphis Maulers, South Carolina Raptors, Virginia Spears, Fayetteville Warriors and North Carolina CougarsWomen's Professional Football League
The Women's Professional Football League (WPFL) was the first and longest operating women's professional American football league in the United States. With teams across the United States, the WPFL had its first game in 1999 with just two original teams: the Lake Michigan Minx and the Minnesota Vixens. Fifteen teams nationwide competed for the championship in 2006.
The league had been recognized in national media campaigns, in the book Atta Girl, and even had a team (the New England Storm) that had a commercial relationship with an NFL team, the New England Patriots.
Unlike the other women's American football franchises, the WPFL operated as a fall league and not a spring league.
Gridiron football concepts
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