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La Caliente de Arizona esta en fuego!

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La Caliente de Arizona esta en fuego!

The heat is on in Phoenix with professional women’s football

FEBRUARY 27, 2002


You’re five feet two inches tall, weigh 110 pounds, and you’re a woman.


Wait a second! That’s an exaggeration.


You’re actually five feet one half inch tall, weigh 108 pounds. And you’re still a woman. Oh, and you’re 33 years old.


So what sort of sports do you participate in? Gymnastics? Badminton? Golf?


Maybe for most, but not for Carrie Thomas. She’s five feet one half inch tall, weighs 108 pounds, is female, 33 and she is a professional women’s tackle football player. And what’s more, she’s an outside linebacker.


Seriously.


Now wait a minute, you’re probably saying. Outside linebackers are 280 pounds, six-six, and hardly ever shave.


Yeah, maybe in the NFL, but not necessarily in the WAFL, the Women’s American Football League. And in its debut season, Carrie Thomas sparkled as a defensive back for the Arizona Caliente, one of 16 pro teams that participated in the WAFL’s inaugural 2001/02 campaign.


You may not have heard of the WAFL or the Caliente, not yet; but the chances are you will in the future – you will if Jennifer Cada gets her way. And Carrie Thomas. And probably Glynis Singbeil, too.


Carrie and Glynis are sisters. Glynis (better known as “Nin” to her friends) owns Nin’s Local Store in Trout Creek with her husband Todd. Jennifer is the owner and manager of the Caliente in Phoenix. And Carrie (better known as “Little Bit” to her teammates) who attended Noxon High School for three years in the early `80s, plays football for Jennifer.


“She was always good at all sports,” Glynis said of her little sister, who, it turns out, came up with the nickname “Nin” when she was just three years old. “My full name is Glynis Lynne, and Carrie could never say it, so she started calling me Nin,” she explained. Now most people call her that.


As for Carrie’s nickname, that’s a more recent development. It came from her Arizona teammates because of her small stature. Jennifer observed, “She’s the smallest player on the team, and one of the smallest women playing football anywhere in the country.”


But Carrie Thomas is a perfect example of the folly of judging someone – especially a football player – based on size. “She may be barely over five feet,” Jennifer said, “but her personality makes her very large. She’s a spark plug on defense.”


In fact, Carrie’s relentless efforts earned her defensive MVP of the game honors back in November when Arizona faced the imposing Minnesota Vixens. At season’s end, she was selected to the WAFL All Star team. It was a fitting conclusion to an outstanding season for Little Bit and the Caliente.


Arizona overcame a 1-3 start by winning their last six regular season games then faced the undefeated Seattle Warbirds in a playoff game. As reported on the team’s website (www.wafl-caliente.com), the Caliente gladly removed the “un” from “undefeated” for Seattle and moved on to a semifinal contest with the California Quake. Carrie recalled they had opportunities to win that game and go on to the Women’s World Bowl I, but California shook loose and got the win, 16-12. They faced the Jacksonville Dixie Blues in the first women’s equivalent of the Super Bowl Feb 24th and won the title for the Pacific Conference.


For Jennifer Cada, the opportunity to become involved in professional women’s football was a natural progression of her career and personal interests. “I’ve always been a strong supporter of women in athletics,” she said. So when the WAFL put out word across the country about the newly formed league, Jennifer heard about it and immediately offered to help with PR. “When I came on board and got acquainted with the league and the athletes, and got to know the coaches and the players, I was convinced to do this.”


Recognizing the need for investors, Jennifer took the reins of the Caliente and plunged into the world of pro football. What convinced her to do so? “We had a really strong base of coaches. (Head) Coach Gerry Turley assembled a team of topnotch coaches who dedicated themselves to teaching the gals how to play football. They worked a lot of endless hours with these women.”


The road that led to Phoenix for Carrie Thomas began in Missouri where she was born; transported her and her sister to Roseburg, Oregon where they spent much of their childhood; brought them to Noxon for a few years where Glynis graduated in 1985 when Carrie was a junior; then took them to Alaska where Carrie graduated from Wasilla High. She then attended Alaska Pacific University on a basketball scholarship, blew out a tendon in her right leg and lost the fourth year of her scholarship. Soon thereafter she moved to Arizona “to find the sunshine.” That was 10 years ago.


What’s interesting about Carrie’s growth as a professional athlete in a sport that is traditionally assigned to men is that she participated in several boys’ sports while in school. “Carrie wrestled in junior high and was the only girl on the team,” Glynis said. “She never lost a match and qualified for State, but they wouldn’t let her go because she was a girl. When she was younger, she played boys’ baseball because she didn’t like the slow pitch the girls played.


“Dad always encouraged her,” Glynis continued. “It was his idea (that she play in boys’ sports) but she was all for it and she was good at all her sports.”


When Carrie called last September and told Glynis she was trying out for a tackle football team, Glynis said she was thinking, “No way!” But after watching two of her sister’s games, including the upset of the Warbirds, she quickly came round and said, “I think this is cool.” And now she has a 21-year old niece who is checking out the opportunity to play football.


To Carrie, this was another challenge in a long line of athletic challenges she has confronted and at which she has succeeded. At first the idea seemed a bit ridiculous for her, at her age, to consider playing football. “Some softball teammates of mine said they were going to try out (for the Caliente) and I thought I’d go watch. But was I interested in playing? Not really.”


She changed her mind, though, despite the nervousness she felt initially. “I wasn’t ever afraid. It wasn’t fear; it was the anticipation, it was figuring out how to take those girls down, how to use my speed. At first I was going to be a running back, but the coach said he needed a linebacker and asked, "Can you do it?" So I did.”


Carrie said she found playing defense to be a lot of fun and exclaimed, “Once you tackle somebody or stop them short of a touchdown or a first down, it’s so satisfying. There’s nothing like it.”


Training to be a football player was no easy task. Carrie worked out everyday for eight months for two hours or more each day. And even though she turned herself into a finely tuned athlete (“She doesn’t have an ounce of fat on her body,” Glynis laughed), Carrie found she still suffered concussions, pulled back muscles and the usual bumps and bruises that go with a full contact sport. The physical abuse never deterred her, though, and as part of a team of sixty-some other players, she helped establish the Arizona Caliente as a powerhouse in the Pacific Conference of the Women’s American Football League.


“She did not play like the smallest woman out there,” team owner and manager Jennifer Cada said of Carrie Thomas, “but when you saw her walk out on that field, you couldn’t help but chuckle. But she could sure take `em down. On behalf of her teammates I’d have to say she was one of the most valuable resources on the team.”


The WAFL is poised to launch its second season next fall. In the meantime, tryouts for the various teams will begin in April. Carrie said she’ll be there and Jennifer said she expects “a huge turnout. We’ve gotten a big response all across the country.”


To learn more about the WAFL and specifically the Arizona Caliente, log on here.Jennifer says they are looking for women who’d like to play football, for people who want to become involved with the team or the league in other ways and for sponsors. She can be contacted at 602-679-3960 or send email to [email protected] The Caliente also have a dedicated hotline for possible new recruits at 602-212-HOTT (4688).


 

 

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Dennis Nicholls Dennis Nicholls was the founder, publisher, janitor and paperboy of the River Journal from 1993 to 2001. He passed away in 2009.

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