If we were to ask you, “Hey Top 5 reader! Who’s your favorite WFA team?” The best response would be “That’s a no brainer, the Orlando Anarchy are MY TEAM!” What is the WFA and who are the Orlando Anarchy?
Answers to both questions are simple; The Orlando Anarchy are Orlando’s only professional female tackle FOOTBALL TEAM! No flags, powder puffs or bikinis here, folks. The ladies of Orlando Anarchy hit the gridiron to play, and boy do they play hard! They are in it to WIN IT.“The Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) was designed to create the largest and most competitive women’s tackle football league in the world. Women’s tackle football teams and leagues have been in existence for over four decades, but the most promising growth in the sport – both in the number of teams and in the level of competition – has taken place over the last five years,” says the Women’s Football Alliance‘s official website.
We had the great opportunity to sit down with Orlando Anarchy owner and defensive line(wo)man, #52, the amazing Melinda Sparks, to ask her about The Anarchy and pick her brain about the state of women’s athletics today. (She’s also a player!)
TOP 5: Tell us a little about the Orlando Anarchy!
Melinda: The Orlando Anarchy began the summer of 2009. The former Orlando Mayhem owner did not wish to continue with a team. The players wished to continue a team in Orlando and move to the WFA (Women’s Football Alliance ). The transition to the WFA (Women’s Football Alliance ) required the team getting a new name.
There was a “MAYHEM” team; the Minnesota Mayhem in the WFA. While discussing a change in name Coach Chaves said, “Ya know…once you have had Mayhem…there is nowhere to go but Anarchy.” (grin) The Orlando Anarchy began with the WFA in the 2010 season. In the 2010 season the Orlando Anarchy was the Southern Division Wildcard winner.
TOP 5: What does playing (women’s) football mean to you? When did you start playing and why?
MELINDA: Playing football to me is so part of growing up. In my neighborhood all sport games had a tackle element. Basketball, Softball, and others sports were played hard. And as a kid everyone played football. You had to get everyone involved so there were enough players; so in that way we were ahead of the gender curve.
You always had someone’s sister joining in because we needed players. But then in High School the brakes were put on that idea. The high school football coach wanted me to play…but this was before Title IX came to fruition. And the School Board said NO to a girl playing football. So, there went my football playing days.
To be able to play today is twofold – I really am a kid on the field; sometimes the grin is difficult to hide. And I know I have to work to make it possible for every young lady who wants to play, can play football.
TOP 5: What is your general take on women’s sports? Is the phrase “playing like a girl” offensive or empowering?
MELINDA: Women’s sports, unfortunately, are defined by media and large sponsors. Both the media and sponsors hold the keys to all women’s sports growing. There are exceptions in different communities. But those communities have strong individuals that make the difference like Central Florida Top 5!
There is a change happening this year. The Women’s World Football Games III was held in the New Orleans Training facility this past March. There were 203 women from all over the world that came together to train for one week with the best coaches in a NFL training facility.
The New Orleans Saints made the step up to the plate to recognize that women want to play football at the next level. (Read more about this here: http://www.neworleanssaints.com/media-center/photo-gallery/Day-1-Womens-World-Football-Games/aef71ae3-b619-41fe-bb72-8fd67ba2934c)
I hope the sport continues to notice this growth. And any person that wants to play a sport should be able to find a league for them. And yes, if you come to our games, you can yell, “You play like a girl.” It is a good thing.
TOP 5: The Orlando Anarchy were the subject of a locally produced documentary, Gridiron Girls, which premiered at Enzian Theater. How was this experience? For those who have seen it, what has changed since filming ended?
MELINDA: This film indeed was a labor of love. These gentlemen [Co-Directors Jason Kovacsev and John Schaub, Producer Matt Mamula and the crew] became the “12th Woman” of the Orlando Anarchy Women’s Football Team. They were such a regular sight on the sideline that players would ask where they were if they did not attend a game. We got to see their children grow up over the three and one half years they worked on making the film.
The film captures the struggle of the Orlando Anarchy and ALL women’s football teams across the nation.
Since the filming has ended…we miss the guys. They really became family. The struggles are still the same for the Orlando Anarchy. We need funding; we need players; we need equipment like faceoff heads; ect.
Everyone that has seen the film says the same thing, “WOW, I loved the film. I didn’t know you played real football.” And to that I always say, “Yes, we play real football.”
TOP 5: How can we find out more about Orlando Anarchy’s tryouts, games and community projects?
MELINDA: We love and need our fans. We have the first game of the 2016 this Saturday, April 16th, 2016 at 7:00 PM at Trinity Prep. [Directions via Google Maps: Trinity Prep 5700 Trinity Prep Lane Winter Park, FL 32792]
We need the word of mouth and the promotion of Central Florida Top 5 and other media outlets to reach out to the community. There is no budget for paid promotion so the Orlando Anarchy depends on the word of mouth for people to discover us. Keep checking the web site www.cfanarchy.com and our Facebook page Orlando Anarchy https://www.facebook.com/OAfootball/ and Twitter https://twitter.com/cfanarchy
We always need volunteers and we are always looking for new players. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.