Running up the Middle

Women’s professional football quickly gaining yardage

Texas Elite Spartans defeated Utah Falconz, 19-14, in the inaugural Women’s National Football Conference IX Cup Championship held June 29 at Marv Kay Stadium in Golden, Colo.

With a small, dedicated volunteer staff, some high-profile sponsors, and the best athletes in the sport, the inaugural season of the Women’s National Football Conference has set a standard in professional women’s tackle football.

The WNFC kicked off its season in April with 15 teams, a 10-week season and a post-season wrap up IX Cup Championship last weekend in Golden, Colorado.

Women’s tackle football is not new, but it has come a long way since 1926 when the first organized team played as the halftime entertainment for the NFL’s Frankford Yellow Jackets. Since then, 30 leagues have struggled to break into the mainstream. Like its predecessors, the WNFC has a passion for the game and great athletes on the field. What makes the league different is a vocal and fierce co-founder, Odessa Jenkins, a new business model that eliminates the pay-to-play, and effective marketing.

“For those of you who don’t know, the whole point of the WNFC is to serve you, the teams that you play for in the communities where you play. We also have a very specific goal of developing full-kit, women’s tackle professional football. We don’t dream of the days that you are paid to play, we are in operation of the days that you are paid to play. That’s going to take a lot of work, it’s going to take a lot of luck, but it’s also going to take people to say yes to us.”

Odessa Jenkins, co-founder and COO of the WNFC, addresses audience at the Breakfast of Champions. Photo by Cos Lindstrom,

The first to say ‘yes’ to Jenkins were Adidas and Riddell. Adidas announced it’s sponsorship in 2018 as part of the She Breaks Barriers initiative. The company not only provides financial support to the WNFC, it aired the commercial during NBC Sunday Night Football that highlighted female athletes, with a nod to women’s football, proving that marketing matters. Riddell sports also showed their support in the development of women’s professional tackle football with their sponsorship of the IX Cup Championship. Both sponsors also provide teams with gear, footwear and apparel.

Adidas and Riddell sponsored the first WNFC IX Cup Championship weekend June 29 at Marv Kay Stadium in Golden, Colo. The weekend included the All-Star game between Atlantic and Pacific divisions. Photo by Cos Lindstrom,

Cameron Collins, football director for Adidas, said he is extremely excited about supporting the WNFC, putting a spotlight on women in football, and changing stereotypes.

“Those of us who are athletes know that sports teaches core values, leadership, teamwork, and communication,” Collins said. “Statistics show that 40% of girls aren’t playing sports and the dropout rates for girls in sports is twice that of boys. Adidas wants to flip those statistics, and partnering with the WNFC we can provide better visibility and more access.”

In addition to sponsorship revenue, the WNFC is funded through private sources, branding and marketing. Teams are invited to the league based on their market, team, players, and ownership. Phase 1 of the five year plan was to get the tougher markets in the West up and running first. Phase 2 will see expansion into the eastern part of the U.S.

“We are looking at adding 15 new teams by the 2020 season,” Jenkins said. “We already identified markets we would like to expand into, like (Washington) D.C., New York and Pittsburgh.”

WNFC Board members, Adidas and other league stakeholders held a panel discussion at the Breakfast of Champions to share what’s going on in the league, and how to continue the momentum to develop it further.

Breakfast of Champions panel, from left to right, Odessa Jenkins, WNFC co-founder; Cameron Collins, Adidas football director; Dr. Jen Welter, WNFC Board member; Liffort Hobley, NFL Alumni Dallas Chapter President and Kandice Mitchell, WNFC Commissioner,

Photo by Cos Lindstrom,

“It’s been a wonderful opportunity for the NFL Alumni Association to work with the WNFC,” Liffert Hobley, NFL Alumni Dallas Chapter President said. “We are excited to continue building the relationship with the WNFC and and watching the league grow.”

See also:

WNFC All-Star Game Gallery
Jen Welter’s Football Clinic Gallery