Orlando Anarchy thinks football is for girls

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By Sarah Bolandi

Closing out the 2017 season as the only Orlando sports team to make it to playoffs, Orlando Anarchy is already gearing up for 2018 and hoping to gain some hometown notoriety and support along the way.

The team walked away from playoffs as the 2017 D3 National Conference winners in Women’s Football Alliance and ranked a strong second in their division. But despite their success, Anarchy owner, Melinda Sparks, shared they still struggle gaining local support.

“My dream is to have women’s football at the level when someone is choosing between other sports, we’re in there too.” – Melinda Sparks

 

Photo via @orlandoanarchy Instagram page

Former player turned owner, Sparks began as a team member in 2009 with the Orlando Mayhem. A year later, they formed a board and submitted a request to join the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) as a professional team. In 2012, Sparks seized an opportunity to take over as owner and continue giving women a team to play for.

“I think there should always be a venue for women to play football. I played with my friends growing up and where I came from it was the norm. It’s what we did after school. When it became a more organized sport and we were told we couldn’t play, even the boys were like “Why not? She’s good.” – Melinda Sparks

Previous owners weren’t willing to relinquish the official team name so, when head coach Tony Chaves joked “after mayhem, there’s nowhere to go but anarchy” it stuck.

Photo of Coach Tony Chaves via @orlandoanarchy Instagram

Not to be confused with the lingerie league, the women of Anarchy play professional tackle football through hot summers and in “full pads,” as the players say. For women of all athletic backgrounds, the team provides individuals a space to learn the game, play the game, and to compete.

Unlike the NFL season, these women host tryouts in the fall and officially launch into training at the beginning of the year. January is spent hosting practices to learn basic techniques for those new to the sport. April is when the season begins and training increases to three times a week at the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico on Econlockhatchee Trail [GMap]. The season typically ends in June but this year’s has been extended through July to accommodate playoffs.

“We take new women from zero to football in one season.” –Melinda Sparks

While the Anarchy is currently celebrating a successful 8-3 record, the team’s lineup can often change before next season. With about 80 percent of the team balancing two jobs and family, players sometimes take a break from the team for other obligations.

Since 2010, however, Sparks mentions the team has increasingly improved. She shares that much of that can be attributed to the teamwork seen on the field between both players and coaches. With an earlier season, getting accesses to better coaching staff has also helped improve the players’ game.

“You need to have coaches that understand how to coach women because there are differences between men and women not necessarily physically but mentally.” –Melinda Sparks

With tryouts completed, the team will enjoy the holidays and kick start the new season in the new year. Orlandoans interested in attending the games can do so by visiting Anarchy’s website for the full schedule. Home games are hosted on the field at Trinity Preparatory School [GMap] on Saturday nights where tickets can be purchased for $10.

Photo via @orlandoanarchy Instagram

Sparks hopes to excite the local community to attend 2018 games where they can see a good quality game and where people can “scream you play like a girl and have it be a good thing.”

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