2008-04-10 / Front Page

Islander tackles women's football

By Stephanie Heelan Cotsonas

Stacey Martin, #52, goes for the tackle in her fourth season as an outside linebacker for the New England Intensity. The team is part of the Independent Women's Football League. Photo courtesy of Stacey Martin Stacey Martin, #52, goes for the tackle in her fourth season as an outside linebacker for the New England Intensity. The team is part of the Independent Women's Football League. Photo courtesy of Stacey Martin When trying to get back into shape after having children, most women think about taking a walk or heading to the gym. Stacey Martin of Jamestown had another idea: to play football.

Martin is in her fourth season as an outside linebacker for the New England Intensity of the Independent Women's Football League (IWFL).

After having her third child in 2003, Martin felt she was not taking care of herself. "I was focused on taking care of the kids and was not doing anything else for me and felt like I was burning out. I felt like I had lost my identity and needed to reconnect myself with being an athlete," she said.

Her plan was to get back to the gym and then get back into sports once she was in shape. Around the same time, she got a flyer at the Newport St. Patrick's Day parade where the team was marching. "I didn't know anything about women's football prior to that, I didn't even know it existed," Martin said.

Martin grew up playing sports, most notably soccer, field hockey and softball. Ironically, she was approached by her high school's football coach. "The high school coach saw that I was the goalie on the field hockey team where I had to kick the ball to clear it. He wanted me to be his kicker and I couldn't because field hockey is the same season," she said.

Intensity draws all types of women, and like Martin, most have a background in sports. "We have a lot of parents on the team, we have two lawyers, a physician's assistant, a nurse, a couple of construction workers, it runs the gamut," Martin said. The women range from 4 feet 11 inches and 110 pounds to 6 feet 2 inches and 230 pounds, according to Martin. There are currently 25 players on the roster and the average age is in the mid-30s.

Martin will have a houseguest for the next three months. Suzanne Dubey of Switzerland will be spending the 2008 season visiting the U.S. and playing for Intensity. Last season, Intensity was 3-5, which was not where they wanted to be, after going to the playoffs in 2006 with a record of 7-1.

In women's professional football, there are three major leagues that are well known and Intensity is in the IWFL. There are 40 teams in the IWFLacross the country and this season Intensity will travel to Montreal, Southern Maine, New Hampshire and Connecticut. The team practices twice a week and has been working out at an indoor facility in Natick, Mass. for the past two months. They will move to the outdoor practice field in Hopkinton, Mass. as soon as weather allows. Games run from April through June and they are full contact and full gear with modified NFLrules.

As with the men, women's full contact football is not without risk of injury. Martin described her worst injury. "I dislocated and relocated my elbow as I went to tackle somebody. It relocated itself almost immediately. Thankfully we had two byes the next two weeks, so I took it easy. The next time we had practice I just wrapped it tight and kept playing. On a rainy damp day it aches like crazy."

Although the team has solid coaches and players, it is always looking for more women to try out. "Even though I am an outside linebacker, I play all sides of the ball because we have such a small roster. A lot of us will be playing offense, defense and special teams," said Martin. In addition, the team is always looking for more corporate sponsors and to grow the fan base.

Now, four years later, Martin can't say enough positives about her decision to try out for the team. "It is a great outlet for stress. I was looking for football to reconnect me to being an athlete and it has given me so much more. I could not get the same thing from going out and playing softball and that used to be my favorite sport."

In their season opener this weekend, Martin and Intensity will travel to Connecticut to play the Cyclones.

For more information about the team, visit www.newenglandintensity. com.

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