Posted by: Ethan Johnson | June 14, 2010

Becky Lahmann Responds/The First Objective

I’d like to start by thanking Becky Lahmann for her excellent response to the article I wrote about her this weekend. I will reprint her comments below for posterity:

Thank you for all the kind words! Even now I still cannot figure out why me. With all the talent we have on this team, I do not in any way feel worthy of this.

A couple weeks ago I sent out an email to the team just trying to encourage everyone to keep their heads up and finish this season strong. I explained my reason, other than the love for the game, for playing football. When I was in 8th grade I saw an article in the newspaper about women’s pro football. I promised myself one day I would play football…tackle football! I went to Christian schools my whole life, so girls were not allowed to play football. Every year I asked the coaches if I could play, and every year I got the same response. “Football is for boys!” In 2006 I met a group of the Outlaws. That night has changed my life forever. I wanted to play that year, but I was deploying to Iraq and with all the training we had to complete before the deployment…I simply did not have the time. When I returned in November of 2007, three days after I got off the plane from Iraq I was at Outlaw tryouts! I have loved every minute I’ve had with my Outlaw family since, on and off the field! The Outlaws are the best group of women I have ever had the privilege of knowing and serving with.

Chenelle Brooks, Monica Gauck, Sekethia Tejeda, Lily Messina, Tracey Suire, Lorin Smith, Veronica Narvaez, Jessica Baker, Justine Wolfanger, Shadana Hurd and many others…these women along with our amazing coaching staff are reasons that I was and am able to play football! It is because of these women that I was able to accomplish the goal I set for myself when I was 15 years old, to play women’s pro football. These women have played for so many years and are the heart and soul of our team! We wouldn’t be here without them! The women of Austin, TX would not have a football team to call their family without these special women. My love and respect for them and what they do is so great I cannot seem to find the words! The only thing I can say to them is THANK YOU!

Prior to this past weekend’s Lone Star Mustangs/Austin Outlaws game, I was dealing with some personal business and left wondering, “now what?” And the answer came quickly: “I have a mission.”

To inspire, encourage, and empower the heroes of tomorrow.

Without the benefit of Becky’s first-hand comments about her decision to play pro football, I decreed that she, and many others, are indeed heroes, and it is my mission that I should support them in any way that I can. I am not a man of great means – meaning “not rich” – but pa-rum-pa-pum-pum, beating the drum for heroes like Becky is a way to fulfill the aims of my mission.

To respond directly to the question of “why Becky Lahmann?”, it may seem silly but a simple photo on the internet was so iconic (to me) that it helped define and reinforce my mission.

As I mentioned in the prior article, I had a choice between watching the FIFA World Cup on television, or making the long drive to southwest Dallas to see live women’s pro football. I could very easily have declared that the World Cup takes precedence, as it only happens once every 4 years, but the deciding factor for me was that Becky Lahmann was potentially coming to town, and I didn’t know how many more opportunities I’d have to bring things full circle and meet someone that had such a profound effect on me – by merely having her picture taken.

USA/England would be there on the DVR when I got home.

I was very moved by Becky’s comments in the wake of my article and I want to focus on something she said: She went to Iraq and came home to play women’s pro football. I have not served in the armed forces, and can only imagine what serving in Iraq must have been like. But for me, what is most profound is that women’s pro football was there for Becky to come home to.

Someone inspired Becky to play women’s pro football by writing an article about it in the newspaper.

I thought back to the little kids I saw chasing each other around at halftime with a football – 2 boys and a girl – and how I thought “get ’em while they’re young.” It may seem insignificant now, but those kids are going to grow up thinking that football is a sport for everyone, not “just” boys. For many people, women playing full-contact, full-pads football is a novelty and something that not everyone is prepared to accept. For my part, I had similar opinions not all that long ago, and it was the photo of Becky Lahmann smiling wearing a football helmet that forced me to re-think my position. I don’t have children, but I imagined what would be like to have a daughter that played football. I’d be thrilled! I’d be talking about the games, encouraging my daughter to give it all she had, and making the trek whenever and wherever she was playing a game. And I thought, why can’t we have that kind of future? What would be so terrible about women playing full-contact football?

When I finally saw my first live game, I was fully converted. Yes, women really can play football, and do it well. And I look forward to a future where football is truly for everyone.

But that can’t happen without inspiration. Becky was inspired to play football by someone who took the time to write about it in the newspaper. Maybe someone in the audience at one of the games this season saw the real football action and thought, “I want to do that too.” It’s a hard case to make that football isn’t for girls when women are playing pro football!

Someone asked me recently what I want to be when I “grow up.”

I don’t have a definitive answer to that yet, but I told the story of Shra Charley, #16 on the Dallas Diamonds.

Shra comes from the Pacific Islands. She said in a video bio piece that the closest island that anyone has heard of is Guam. She said that back home, it just wasn’t an option for women to play football.

Here in Texas, an airline mechanic decided that she wanted to play football, and formed the Dallas Diamonds. She only got to play in one game but she owns the team to this day. When Shra Charley signed up to be on the team, she became the first woman from her island to play professional football.

That, I said, is the sort of person I want to be when I “grow up”. I want to provide those sorts of opportunities.

In the immediate term, I can strive to inspire others.

If the story of Becky Lahmann has inspired you, the Austin Outlaws play their final regular season home game June 19 against the Houston Power. The Lone Star Mustangs also play that day against Aguilas Regias from Mexico.

My Spanish is far from fluent, but even I know what this says: “Para los que no sabían, el fútbol americano no es sólo para hombres.” (American football is not only for men.)

Women are playing pro football in Mexico.

That only happens when people decide to stop being spectators and join the team.

People like Becky Lahmann, and a whole host of others.

You’re my inspiration.



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