Women’s football team calls Durham home

By Roderick Marshall, Jr.
NCCU Staff Writer
The Durham VOICE

While most people associate football with men, Durham’s Carolina Phoenix women’s tackle football team is working to change that perception. The team, part of the Independent Women’s Football League since 2007, started in Greensboro, but has recently moved to Durham.

Jennifer King is tackled in the Phoenix game against Baltimore. The Phoenix went on to win 34-8. (Photo courtesy of The Carolina Phoenix)

More than 1,600 women play for the IWFL’s 51 teams which extend from Southern California to Montreal and Washington to Florida.

The Carolina Phoenix had a 24-5 record heading into the 2011 season which began last Saturday with a 34-8 win against the Baltimore Nighthawks.

“We are very excited to win against such a formidable opponent as the Baltimore Nighthawks. They are a classy organization,” said Leigh Holmes, team CEO. “We look forward to the re-match on June 6th.”

Head coach Timothy Holmes and the players all came through different routes to find their way to the team. Holmes played for Elon College and Appalachian State University in the 80s, and was even in the Cleveland Browns training camp.

“I also played 12 years of minor league football for local teams as a player and went on to coach men’s minor league teams from 1999 to 2008,” said Holmes. “I started coaching the Phoenix Football team in 2005 [before they joined the IWFL].”

Holmes explained that he got involved in women’s football through one of the players on his men’s team.

“Cynthia Miller was a kicker for me on my men’s team the Triangle Rattlers,” said Holmes. “She asked me to come consult with the new all ladies team that she was playing for. I was taken with the passion that the women displayed for this game that society told them that they are not supposed to play.”

The Carolina Phoenix women’s tackle football team is ready for another winning season. (Photo courtesy of The Carolina Phoenix)

Leigh Holmes, CEO and wife of Timothy Holmes, played with the team for a year before she began her active role as CEO. She explained that she joined the team because of the other women.

“I was inspired when I saw the other women on the field playing,” said Holmes.  “The combination of strength, agility, power, speed, as well as femininity really made me want to try it.”

Danita Horton, an NCCU graduate, says that her previous athletic activities and marching band experience were great training for playing football which she discovered through a friend who had joined a flag football team through Durham Parks and Recreation.

“The NCCU Sound Machine marching band helped me with discipline, to be on time and follow individual directions inside a bigger scheme for us all to accomplish one goal,” said Horton. “I also did track and field in high school and other sports such as volleyball, softball and basketball over the years.”

The IWFL follows rules similar to those of the NFL, but with subtle differences.

“The IWFL regulation football is smaller than a regulation NFL football to allow for smaller female hands,” said Coach Holmes. “Also in our league we have banned blocking below the waist in any form, as women tend to be prone to ACL injuries.”

The Carolina Phoenix will be playing home games at the Durham County Stadium. Their first home game is this Saturday at 7 p.m. against the Georgia Peachez. Tickets are $10 for adults and free for children under 12. Military personnel and senior citizens pay $5.

The team is also interested in finding local business sponsors that want to grow and partner with them.

The team’s website http://www.carolinaphoenixfootball.com/ has their full schedule, roster, stats and a list of community events the team is participating in. You can also find them on facebook.