Throwing like a girl is taken as an insult more often than not. But for members of Washington Prodigy, a local all-female football team, the phrase is a compliment.
Washington Prodigy was conceived from a small group of like-minded women on another local female football team, the D.C. Divas. Some players weren’t happy with the direction the team was going.
“The attitude on the team was changing and became less about football,” Jordyn White, general manager and defensive player, says. “It didn’t seem player focused.”
Tiffany Matthews, Washington Prodigy owner and middle linebacker, decided it didn’t have to be the end of the road for those players who wanted to leave D.C. Divas. She began to talk to other team owners and decided that she wanted to try starting a team herself.
In 2012, Washington Prodigy was formed. But it wasn’t an easy task to get the team going.
“Funding came out of my pocket,” Matthews says. “The first season was the hardest part. Players were paying for uniforms. We didn’t have sponsors because no one knew who we were.”
Matthews, who has been playing football since she was young, says women’s football has grown significantly over the years.
“When I first started there weren’t any women playing,” she says. “We get a lot of girls on the team who are younger where it’s more OK now for them. Its almost co-ed.”
More women getting involved in football is White’s favorite part of being on the team. She loves watching the new girls join the team and grow in their success.
“People come from all different athletic backgrounds and for some, it’s nothing like they’ve ever done. Seeing them cultivate all that teaching and having that ‘a-ha’ moment is exciting to watch.”
The stereotype that women can’t play football because it’s a male-dominated sport is one Washington Prodigy encounters often. Player Crystal Boyd thinks it’s totally false.
“We can do anything a man can do,” Boyd says. “We can compete just like they can if we’re given the platform to do it. We’re just as competitive as they are.”
White wants people to understand that women are able to play football just like men do because they aren’t playing against men.
“There are women stronger and more aggressive than other women just like there are men,” she says. “I see it as being equal.”
The team is a diverse mix of local women. Players range from ages 21-45 and work in various professions as well as some having families. Players are a mix of straight and LGBT with Matthews, White and Boyd all being LGBT. The team’s diversity has Washington Prodigy wanting all women to know that they can play too.
“We’re not a special, select breed or type of woman,” White says. “Any woman who has the desire to play can play. We are just a selection of women excited to do something that a few years ago wasn’t even possible.”
Still women playing football, which at one time seemed a fantasy, is still hard for people to accept.
“The biggest struggle is proving that we can play the sport,” Matthews says. “They say girls can’t play and that it’s too tough, but any sport is tough.”
The team is part of the Independent Women’s Football League and Team D.C. Their season, which runs from January through April, leads them all over the East Coast to play against other all-female football teams.
Matthews’ favorite aspect is the sense of community it brings.
“I met my two best friends playing football,” she says. “It’s like a big family because of everything we have to deal with as women. That’s my favorite part, other than trying to knock someone out.”