Wisconsin Dragons women's football team is back after six years gone
Pop quiz: Who are the Wisconsin Dragons?
For those of you who answered, "A local tackle football team in the Women's Football Alliance who are making a return to the league after a six-year hiatus," congratulations, you are correct and I am impressed. For those that weren't quite sure, it's all right; you're not alone.
The Wisconsin Dragons were originally created as the Madison Dragons, before switching the name and relocating to the southeastern part of the state. The Dragons competed in the Women's Football Alliance in the 2011 and 2012 seasons but, until this year, had not fielded a squad since.
Part of the reason the team was able to make a comeback to the WFA this season was because of the formation of Wisconsin Dragons Inc. In a statement released by the Dragons and posted on the WFA website, they credited the organization as giving the team a "refreshed purpose" and call it "a nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion of girls' and women's athletics."
On a chilly Saturday night, the Dragons hosted the Columbus Vanguards at Hart Park. Although it was not the Dragons' first game at Hart Park since 2012 – their first game was April 14 against the Minnesota Vixen – it did become Wisconsin's first win since that season.
The game featured the kind of hardnosed, smash-mouth football one would expect on a 30-degree, early-spring evening. In a league that allows just a 31-player roster, the ability of some of the players to play both sides of the ball in a full-length, 60-minute game was as impressive as the level of intensity on display Saturday night.
Thirteen-year veteran McGee Steffens noted the physicality after the win.
"It was not an easy win by any means. They came at us the whole game," she said. "I think we gelled a little bit more as a team this game. We were talking more, we were communicating and everybody knew where they were supposed to be a little bit more than the first two games."
Nancy Biker, another veteran and one of the team leaders, hoped their 13-6 win over Columbus was something the team could build on moving forward.
"It's amazing," Biker said. "I'm telling you, this team, we faced our two toughest opponents the first two games, and hopefully we'll continue to roll after this in the right direction."
And while a win Saturday night was a positive step for the Dragons on the field, they know the importance of the work that still has to be done off the field.
As with any small, local sports organization, the task of making connections is important. Whether those connections are for sponsorships, media exposure or special promotions, it's vital for organizations like the Dragons to get their brand out there.
With current sponsorship deals with local companies like Gordie Boucher Nissan of Greenfield, Blue Moon Acupuncture and Kokopelli's Pub & Grub – where the team goes to eat, drink and hangout with family, friends and fans after every home game – Biker also hopes to connect with other women's sports organizations in the area to continue to grow their brand.
"To have a team back here in Milwaukee is very important, very exciting for the city, exciting for the fans," she said. "We're hoping to make some connections with the other women's teams in Milwaukee. There's a women's semi-pro basketball team (the Milwaukee Aces) in Milwaukee we want to connect with and just to bring the sport back, the game back."
What the Dragons lack in visibility, they make up for in dedication and love of the game of football. The WFA touts the women's dedication to playing the sport they love, no matter the restrictions. Mary Ellen Six is a perfect example. After Saturday's win she said that factors like distance and time didn't stop her from playing the game she loves.
"My last six seasons, I've driven at least an hour and a half to every practice and game," she said. "I do it because it's worth it, and I'll keep doing it."
As for women who want to check it out but aren't familiar with the intricacies of the game? Steffens said that doesn't matter either.
"It doesn't matter if you haven't played," she said. "You can learn the game; it's just like anything else. If you want to play, just come on out, we'll teach you how to play."
If you're interested in playing with the Dragons, or are curious for more details, you can email Biker and McGee at Widragons@yahoo.com. For the latest Dragons news, check out their website at widragons.com and follow them on Facebook.
The Dragons' next home game is May 19 against the Grand Rapids Tidal Waves at Hart Park.
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