Touchdown! All-women tackle football team welcomes all ages, shapes and sizes

Orlando Anarchy women’s football team prepares for May 1 season start

ORLANDO, Fla. – Football has been called a “final frontier” for women and girls in sports but recently the ladies are breaking through.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers became famous for the trend-- the Super Bowl champs were the NFL’s first team to have two full-time female coaches on staff.

More women are coaching, playing and loving football than ever before. Some of the female coaches in the NFL got their chance to play on women’s tackle football teams just like a Central Florida team, the Orlando Anarchy.

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This spring, the women’s tackle football team is back after last season was cancelled amid the pandemic. Yet, coronavirus continues to make some logistics feel like third and long. A lack of practice space, funding and a lower player turnout have been some of the issues. But team owner and player Melinda Sparks said there was no way she was going to pull the plug on playing in 2021.

Melinda Sparks, Orlando Anarchy team owner and player. (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

“It’s been a challenge, it’s genuinely been a challenge,” Sparks said. “But I don’t want any young lady to not have a chance to play football. I don’t want anyone to be able to tell them no. That’s wrong.”

The Orlando Anarchy has given women in Central Florida to chance to play tackle football since 2010 as part of the Women’s Football Alliance. The team also won a championship in 2018.

But every year, the Anarchy starts from scratch.

Krystal Holmes, Orlando Anarchy head coach and teacher, teaching tackling. (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

That’s where Krystal Holmes comes in. A former football player herself, she’s the passionate head coach and teacher.

“Basically just fundamentals of football,” said Holmes. “A lot of women watch the game, they may have favorite players, but they don’t understand any of it, or very little of it. I mean, we start with the dimensions of the field, what the hash marks are, a lot of stuff that guys that play from Pee Wee take for granted and they know. These ladies have no idea what some of that is and so it’s great to give back. When I started playing, I didn’t know.”

Every woman of any shape, size, age and experience level is welcome to give the Anarchy a try, just like Jenny Buitron did.

“This is my first season, I’m a rookie,” said Buitron. “I’ve learned a lot throughout this whole thing because I didn’t know anything. Like, when you watch a game, there’s actually a lot more mentally in the game that I didn’t realize.”

Orlando Anarchy rookie player Jenny Buitron running drills. (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

The Anarchy have five more weeks to prep, and then on May 1, it’s go time for game No. 1.

“Now remember, if you do come out to a game, you can yell ‘You play like a girl!’ and that’s a good thing,” said Sparks.

The women do have to pay to play. For more information on joining the team or to check out games, click here.

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