The Chattanooga Locomotion women's football team begins its 14th season tonight with a game against the Huntsville Tigers at Red Bank High School. It kicks off at 7, and tickets cost $10 with children 8 and under admitted free.
After taking off the 2012 season and playing with a minimal roster last year, Locomotion owner Cheryl Jacobs and coach Sheryl Talley are excited about the growth and enthusiasm of this year's squad. And they are off next weekend to build more from their start.
With April as Child Abuse Awareness Month, the Locomotion are partnering with the Children's Advocacy Center of Chattanooga for tonight's game. A big part of the players' motivation for tackle football is the embracing of an opportunity they didn't have growing up, and making sure children can develop unhindered is very dear to them.
The Locomotion belong to the Independent Women's Football League. The Tigers are new to the league, so Talley knows little about them, but she feels good about the improvement her players are showing. And she's been around since the Locomotion's second year of existence, so she has a pretty good feel.
She played for two years, starting at age 28, and then became a defensive assistant coach. Jacobs made her the head coach in 2012.
"In addition to more numbers, we have a more varied and balanced group of girls this year -- in athletic ability, speed and size," Talley said Friday. "The rookies have come a long way. Most of them knew only what they had seen on TV, so they had to start from the beginning, but they've made tremendous progress soaking up what we're teaching them."
Some of the new players are in their early 20s, but one is the oldest player -- and loving it.
"It's like an extended family. It really is," said two-way lineman Renae Bunch Wright, who's 37 and an operations manager for a home respiratory company.
"I remember in high school I wanted to play football, but they wouldn't let me," Wright added. "I played softball and basketball in school (Wartburg High), and I also used to play soccer and volleyball. I still play softball two seasons a year.
"A couple of veterans on the [Locomotion] kept asking me to play, and I finally decided you only live once and I don't have many years left I can play. So I tried out, and it's great. I'm way excited about playing my first game."
Talley was a multisport athlete at Southeast Whitfield in Dalton. She took part in basketball, softball, track, tennis and golf. Competition oozes from her pores.
"I have full faith in Sheryl. She's very dedicated, and her playbook's phenomenal," Jacobs said. "She eats, sleeps and drinks Locomotion football. It's a passion of hers, and she wants so much to see these ladies succeed.
"We have had growing pains, but we are growing, and we're back on track," said Jacobs, who got involved by watching her daughter play (2003-08) for the Locomotion. She became the owner in 2010, and one of the first things she did was finish the extensive paperwork to join the IWFL.
"The big thing we impress as the Locomotion is we're 11 as one -- you have to rely on each other," Jacobs said. "We do have women who try out and decide it's not for them, but if they make it through a season they can't wait till the next one."
Contact Ron Bush at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6291.