By Kelly Harrison | Photos Courtesy Knoxville Lightning
Imagine having a love and a passion for a game so much that one day you decide to take the steps of owning and managing your own team. Perhaps not hard to imagine but now add into that mix that the game you are so passionate about is a male-dominated sport and you are a woman who has always wanted to be on the field tackling the odds and showing the naysayers that there are “strong badass women that want to be able to prove that they can do it”. These are the exact thoughts Lena Bennett and many other women in the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) had and what led Lena to start the Knoxville Lightning women’s tackle football team.
What started almost five years ago as a passion and a message is also a labor of love for all involved. When I caught up with Lena she was painting helmets and as we talked I soon found out it was just one of the many obligations that come with being a part of such an inspiring team. She told me about the love and passion from the players, a roster of 25 women ranging in age from ’20s to mid-’40s, who all have families and full-time jobs. Football is another huge commitment they add to their daily schedule and how they juggle three 2-3 hour training sessions and on the field practices along with fundraising efforts throughout the week just shows the love they truly have for the sport.
However, I get the feeling it’s more than that. As I said, there is also a message here. This team and many others in the WFA spend time with female youth throughout the year to help coach them and show them that they can achieve whatever they want to achieve. Whether it’s at a summer camp setting or giving away a pair of tickets to a Lightning game, these women are working hard on getting the message out there that it is ok to be strong, and different and to feel empowered to achieve. It’s an awesome message that goes far beyond the field, and it’s something these young girls will carry with them into adulthood.
On Dec. 11, they gave away several pairs of tickets to a very important game, one that could change the way people view women’s tackle football, one that will for sure make history in women’s sports. Immediately following the Tennessee Titans Vs Colts noon game on Dec. 30 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, the Knoxville Lightning will take the field against the Tri-Cities Thunder and play the first ever women’s tackle football game at Nissan Stadium. This game will prove to be powerful and entertaining as each team brings a strong roster coupled with grit and tenacity to the field. Lena feels confident that they are prepared to battle and their training has been readying them for this moment.
*Still recruiting for 2019 season
*For more info about the team or tryouts for the Knoxville Lightning please visit FB or call 865-399-1325