By Dylan Doherty
Yes, women can play football, Louise Ogadinma declares. And not only can they play–a number of women in Flint want to play. That hardy corps of athletes have found an outlet in the Flint City Riveters (FCR), a full-tackle women’s football team playing its 2018 season opener April 7 against the Columbus Vanguards at Columbus.
The first home game will be April 14 against the Toledo Reign at Kearsley High School, 4302 Underhill Dr. in Flint, where the team regularly plays. Full schedule information is available at rivetersfootball.com. Gates open at 4:30 p.m. for a 6 p.m. kickoff.
Ogadinma, 28, of Detroit, is the Riveters’ owner. She said the team began in 2015, when former players for Detroit Pride, a team from the United States Women’s Football League (USWFL), decided to create their own team based in Flint. Ogadinma herself wanted to start a team based in Flint. It was the height of the water crisis, and she and Pam Parker, FCR co-owner and a Flint resident, thought they could bring something positive to the city. They are now part of the Women’s Football Alliance.
According to Ogadinma, FCR provides something unique for young women in Flint that was missing: the opportunity to play tackle football. Before the Riveters, women from Flint with a yen for tackle football had to either play for Detroit Pride, the Detroit Dark Angels, or the West Michigan Mayhem (from the WFA and based in Kalamazoo).
Before securing their current field at Kearsley High School, FCR played at Vassar High School. The announcer for FCR, Fernando Amaya, is also the announcer at Kearsley, where his son attended high school. Because Kearsley has a lot of women interested in football and has a prominent football team, Amaya suggested to Parker they choose Kearsley for their home field. Ogadinma met with the athletic director of Kearsley, who agreed to FCR playing there.
On the team’s Facebook page, Amaya said, “I feel having the Riveters at Kearsley will give our girls and other girls, in Flint and Genesee County, a great opportunity to do something other areas can’t: to compete like the guys in a sport that I love.”
The Riveters’ record in the first half of 2016 was 0-8, but things got better in 2017, with the team pulling in three wins and five losses.
In preparation for the 2018 season, FCR has already recruited new players. Women as young as 16 can join (with parental consent) and there is no maximum age limit – the oldest player being 50 years old. “As long as you have that passion for the game,” Ogadinma said, a woman can join FCR.
Their recruiting activities included passing flyers to current players and putting them up in neighborhood stores, gyms, and schools. They also used social media ads and vendor events. The latter included tables at Flint Pride events and LadyFest. At Flint Pride, 50 young women were interested. In addition, they recruited at tailgates at area high schools.
To raise funds for FCR, they run car washes, bowling fundraisers, and pizza fundraisers. They also sell apparel through Fan Cloth, a team apparel fundraising site, and get a percentage from each purchase. The players are not paid, and are charged a fee to cover uniforms, travel, and use of the field.
FCR are looking to secure bigger sponsors, Ogadinma said. Currently, Flint Iceland Arena sponsors a couple hours of practice. They also have approached ELGA Credit Union and Genesys Regional Health Center as potential sponsors. Ogadinma notes the Chicago Force, another women’s tackle football team, is sponsored by Budweiser and that sponsorship opportunities are a matter of connections.
Just as concussions have become a frequent talking point and concern in the NFL, FCR also aims to be sure their players take proper precautions to prevent head injuries. Ogadinma says that FCR has a medical staff at games to evaluate players and make sure they are able to play. In addition, they promote players letting coaches know if a player can’t play.
Along with playing football, FCR players involve themselves with charities and volunteering in Flint. They collaborated with #HashtagLunchbag to provide lunch for the homeless in Flint in Sept. 2016, donating 500 bananas and packing 500 lunches.
According to Ogadinma, this not only benefits the community, but the football players as well. “It’s important to give young women an outlet,” Ogadinma said. Instead of “doing stuff they shouldn’t be doing,” they are “gravitating towards our community. More people in the U.S. and world see how we are trying to give back.”
FCR has not received any pushback or backlash, but individual members have encountered stereotyping. “Guys don’t understand why women want to play football,” Ogadinma said. Those stereotypes are why it’s important to have a women’s football team in Flint, she said.
More information on the team, along with the game schedule, is available on Facebook @flintcityriveters, or at www.rivetersfootball.com.
EVM staff writer Dylan Doherty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. EVM Editor Jan Worth-Nelson contributed to this report. She can be reached at email@example.com.