Gridiron girls 

The shoulder pads were donated by a local high school, the newly purchased jerseys are actually leftover practice uniforms from Michigan State found through the university’s surplus store, and eBay is becoming a go-to resource for all the other odds and ends it takes to outfit a football team. But the origin of the equipment matters little to the startup of a local women’s football team—the Valley Venom players are excited just to have an opportunity to get in the game.

“Women’s football is an interesting recruiting process,” says Kim Nyberg, a former player for the Independent Women’s Football League’s (IWFL) team in San Diego who is trying to jumpstart the Venom. “A lot of women never get the chance to play, so they’re a little apprehensive about it. But this is real football. You get to put on all of the stuff, and you get to hit people.”

Nyberg, 29, started recruiting for the Venom in August, and many players have already come and gone (one left recently when her military reserve unit was called to action). But the team’s modest short-term goal of playing in “sixes tournaments”—six players on each team as opposed to the regular 11—is within reach. Nyberg has eight dedicated players practicing toward their first tournament in Oregon at the end of October, and is holding another tryout later this month.

“We’re focusing on the six-women tournaments now just to get practice and to let some of the girls try it out,” says Nyberg, who works for a mortgage company. “It gives us an immediate outlet, but the goal is to grow into a full roster and compete in the IWFL.”

She’s received support and guidance from another local football startup. Rajiem Seabrook, who helped start the men’s semi-pro Missoula Raptors team that debuted last spring, has provided the Venom with coaching and extra equipment.

“I understand their plight and struggle,” Seabrook says. “It’s not an easy thing to do, but I think they can make it happen.”

The next Venom tryout is at Fort Missoula Saturday, Sept. 24, at 10 a.m. For more information, call 531-4845.

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