The gridiron. Eleven players line up in full pads, their stance still, but tense with anticipation of the impending snap. The helmets and shoulders parallel as they wait for the call. These are athletes who have trained for this particular moment, for their time under the stadium lights. They’ve gone through the grueling practices and put in time to prepare. The same thing could be said for many teams who play tackle football but this team, in particular, is different in a significant way. It’s comprised completely of women athletes. Imagine for a moment that you’re a girl who has always dreamed of playing tackle football. You grew up learning about the game and seeing the excitement of professional football each year. You threw a football in the yard with your friends but when you were old enough to play football on an organized team, you were told that, because of your gender, you weren’t allowed to play. This has been the case for many women, but for a few women things are beginning to change. One of the people making that change a reality is Tyre Brown. Brown is the sole owner of the Mississippi Royalty; a woman’s tackle football team based in Hattiesburg MS. Brown, a black woman and Mississippi native, was born in Jackson MS and raised in Pearl. She attended Pearl High School, then later the University of Southern Mississippi. Brown graduated from USM in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in coaching and sports administration. She has always had a passion for sports, which comes through in the animated way that she describes her team’s formation. In the 2017-2018 season, Brown started a team that was a part of the Mississippi Women’s Combine-League a women’s flag football league. While traveling with the team, she noticed that there was a more physical element to some of their opponents and found that this could be attributed to the fact that some of the players had experience in women’s tackle football. When Brown learned that her team could be part of a tackle version of the game that they were already playing, her next mission was to become part of the WFA (Women’s Football Alliance). Mississippi Royalty was born. The athletes that play on her team who had learned the fundamentals of the game, through playing flag football, now added the element of tackle. For the women to have a football team that they can be a part of is a dream come true. The team is comprised of women who love the game. Some are single mothers, others have one or two jobs, but all sacrifice their time and money for something bigger than themselves. Over time, her team has had its growing pains while going through multiple head coaches, and finally employing Anthony Dunn. With Coach Dunn in place, Brown says, her team has had a transformation. Coach Dunn has helped the women learn how to play safely and given them a deeper understanding of how to play. When asked about the royalty part of their name, Brown replied “…because we are women and we are queens of this game.” Now as members of the WFA, Mississippi Royalty plays in a league with 63 other all women teams this season. They will play a schedule this season that includes 8 games, with 3 of the away games being out of state. I asked Brown about her plans for the future and how she wanted to continue to grow her program. She has a vision for a non-profit organization that can start to give after-school, fundamental training, to young women in junior high and high school who would also like to play tackle football.
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