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Dallas Elite headed for the playoffs

Dallas Elite, DFW’s undefeated women’s professional football team in the Women’s Football Alliance, plays for the Western Division championship on Saturday, July 9. If they win, Elite then faces off against Eastern Division champions for the WFA championship on July 23 in Pittsburg.

Coach and team co-owner O.J. Jenkins this week said the team began the season by beating the DC Divas, avenging Elite’s only first-season loss. The team just finished regular season play with a 70-14 victory over the Kansas City Titans.

Jenkins said women’s football has been played for about 30 years. Although few schools have a women’s football team, most of the players on the Elite come from some Division 1 college sport — anything from volleyball to basketball.

But what drew them to the Elite?

“Some athletes excel at contact sports,” Jenkins said. So when some women see a women’s full-contact football game, “they come running.”

She compared the game to the WNBA and Dallas’ new women’s basketball team, the Dallas Wings: At a Wings game, players and coaches regularly challenge calls by the refs, but it’s rarely in anger or as aggressively as in the men’s game.

“In a women’s sport, there’s a bit of civility,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins added it wasn’t quite like that in her league, agreeing that the Wings are much more civil with opposing teams during a game. “In football, there’s so much aggression,” she said. “It’s closer to NFL behavior. Our product — once people see it, it’s fun. People say — whoa! That’s football! It’s high intensity. Highly aggressive.”

But the women’s league has developed some of its own traditions in its seven years of play. At the end of the game, both teams greet each other on the field. “There’s a high level of respect,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins played Division 1 basketball at Cal Poly. When she moved to Dallas with her wife and daughter in 2008, she began playing football for the Dallas Diamonds.

“I won a couple of championships with them,” she said. But, she added, “No one knew.”

Jenkins wants that to change that with this new team and new league.

She’s always played sports over the years. But she has also always been a business owner. With the success of the 44-team Women’s Football Alliance, she saw her opportunity to own and coach a team.

But her role, she said is actually “building a team.”

“Women can be empowered to build a sport, if given the recognition,” Jenkins declared. In fact, the co-owner/coach has built an impressive team in just two years. She put together a roster of 50 players, and the team has only lost that one game — the first season opener — in two regular seasons. This season, the Elite averaged a most impressive 60 points a game.

Dallas Elite team members are responsible for finding their own sponsorships. In addition to raising money that mostly pays for travel and hotel expenses, they’re heavily involved in community work. In Dallas, they volunteer with Girls Inc., and in Fort Worth with the Boys and Girls Clubs.

Their message for little girls as well as boys — you can be who you want to be.

And Dallas Elite team members are encouraged by Coach Jenkins to be proud of who they are.

“I’m a lesbian and so’s my quarterback,” Jenkins said. She said she counts about 20 team members as lesbian, but her star wide receiver is straight, and she has a transgender lineman on the team.

If the Elite win next week’s game and go on to the final game, they begin fundraising efforts in earnest to raise the money to fly 50 women to Pittsburgh, to pay for hotels and meals and get in enough practice to win the championship.

How does she raise $25,000 in that short a time and also manage to squeeze in the practice time? “I get quite creative,” Jenkins said.

On July 9, the Dallas Elite face the Central California War Angels at Bishop Lynch High School Stadium, 9750 Ferguson Road in Dallas. Tickets are $15.

In the Eastern Conference championship game0, DC Divas play the Boston Militia. The two conference champions play for the WFA championship on July 23 in Pittsburgh.

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