When you hear the sound of pads crashing together on a football field, what often comes to mind is men playing football.
However, football is no longer just a men’s sport, as teams like the Sacramento Sirens, a semi-pro women’s football team, have proven since 2001.
The Sirens have won several division titles in two separate leagues in their time as a team, the first of which came in 2001 during the first year of existence of the Women’s American Football League.
A common stereotype that has plagued women’s football is claims that it is not a real sport.
Current Siren and American River College student Zionya Nolan, who plays on the defensive line, has had to deal with this stereotype for three seasons now.
“I’ve had my fair share of negative comments thrown my way. One time a guy told me that his pop warner players could play better than us and that woman shouldn’t be playing because our bodies aren’t made for that. I think those people are jealous and sexist,” said Nolan.
However, Nolan says she doesn’t let that stand in her way and uses such comments to inspire her to work harder and become a better player.
She is also encouraged to play and is supported by her family.
“They think its is awesome, they are my biggest fans,” said Nolan.
Some stereotypes faced by playing semi-pro tackle football has also has had its impact on Nolan.
“I think that we are all a bunch of lesbians playing recreation football is the worst stereotype. Traditionally it’s been known as a pretty masculine sport so I guess people are quick to assume what our sexual orientation is. All kind of woman play, straight or gay,” Nolan said.
“The oldest on our team is 45 (years-old) and she’s a beast,” she added.
Nolan describes herself as the smallest on the defensive line, but she doesn’t let that get her down.
The Sirens first home game will be on April 18 at Hughes Stadium at Sacramento City College against the California Quake.
The furthest the team will travel this season will be a game in Phoenix to play the Phantomz.
Nolan says she is not looking forward to playing that game.
“Not because they are good, but because its going to be hot as hell,” she said about the June 13 match.