As football season and Fall was approaching this year, we asked you all what football meant to each of you. Erica Close, a Greater Cincinnati Area mom, replied on one of our Instagram stories, “I played women’s professional football. That was extremely hard!” We were so excited to learn more about her story, we reached out to her right away to see if she’d be willing to share with all of us. To our delight, she was game! My own mother had played on her high school team as the only female, and I didn’t even know women’s football – especially a professional league – was even a thing. Read Erica’s story below.
I was playing co-ed soccer at the time I was recruited for women’s football. Women’s football? Who? What? I’ve never heard of a thing (still to this day, I get asked, “Is that really a thing?”). Women’s Pro Football is no lingerie league – it’s not for the faint of heart or a woman who’s just trying to understand the game. These are strong women, almost all ex-college or select athletes, dedicated to learning a game in an extremely short period of time. Ickey Woods – yes, the famous Bengal’s running back from late 80s – was our head coach and owner of the team. We practiced 4 days a week in the rain, in the cold, and in the mud with film reviews on Mondays and walk-throughs on Fridays before our Saturday games. This was on top of my full-time job, having time for my family and friends, and trying to do regular life.
I played wide receiver, defensive back, and gunner on punt returns. If you didn’t know, this means I played almost the entire game. We didn’t have enough women to play just offense or just defense, so many of us had to play both sides of the line. And by line, we’re talking 300-pound linewomen across from you determined to throw you down just like the boys do. The game was tough, primal, and brought out the fight in people like I’ve never seen. We traveled to other cities like Detroit, Columbus, and Lexington for games. And just like in Cincinnati history, there is a Pittsburgh team who of course was our nemesis! See the full map of the 69 teams in the Women’s Football Alliance. I spent only two years in the league (I tore my ACL during a game). However, they were glorious years, and I always look back on that time with a smile. I enjoyed what I learned, the friends I made, and the adventures along the way.
Learning the game was a quicker process than I anticipated. I had to learn quickly and adapt on the fly just as we do in motherhood. Playing football prepared me for being a working mom who balances life and kids while still making sure I find time for adventure and challenge. As moms, we sacrifice for someone other than ourselves and that’s what football was for me. I still love watching football, and the experience that I gained through playing gives me a greater understanding than some people in the room. That is a glorious confidence I would have never gained had I not stepped up for the challenge.
What most impacted your life that prepared you for motherhood? What does football mean to you? For other stories on how football has affected lives, read our post here –