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Bradley Hilltopics

Summer 2008 • Volume 14, Issue 3  

Sports Scene
Nursing grad seizes football opportunity I Men’s basketball plays in inaugural CBI championship

Nursing grad seizes football opportunity

by Justin Phelps ’05

AMY JO GLADFELTER ’97 MSN ’00 played volleyball, basketball, soccer, and golf at East Leyden High School in Franklin Park, but she was always intrigued by football. “I grew up on the Chicago Bears,” she said. “I just love the sport.”

However, when Gladfelter found an opportunity to play organized football last summer, she hesitated. The chance presented itself in September as she walked through North Halsted Market Days in Chicago. She came across a booth for the Chicago Force of the Independent Women’s Football League, an eight-year-old, full-tackle football organization in which 41 teams compete nationwide. “Initially I thought I was too small to play because the women in the booth were significantly larger than I am,” said the 5-foot-5 cornerback, who at Bradley volunteered her time with Alpha Phi Omega, which left little time for sports or intramurals. “But when I went to the Web site, I found women smaller in height and weight than I am who have been playing for years. That encouraged me to look into it.”

Amy Jo Gladfelter

AMY JO GLADFELTER ’97 MSN ’00 did not have the opportunity to play high school football, but now she’s a member of the Chicago Force, a full-tackle football team in the Independent Women’s Football League. Photo by Scott Renshaw

By October, she significantly increased her training schedule for a November tryout. She made the team and began practicing. “There’s a lot of learning, because a lot of us are learning a new sport, but at the same time you’re going full speed,” Gladfelter said. “The intensity, excitement and adrenaline are all present when you’re out there, even scrimmaging against your own teammates. It’s one of the most challenging sports I’ve ever played, but to have that level of athleticism with that much physical contact… there aren’t many female sports where you’re full contact.”

She practiced for three months with a broken right hand in 2008. In April, she learned she had torn the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee. While it wasn’t a football-related injury, she noticed symptoms of ACL tears during practice. “It was something I had to weigh and consider,” she said of an injury possibility. “But being a skydiver, I’m willing to take some physical risk to participate in sports I love. Unfortunately, it’s just part of the game. It’s something you accept to play.”

Before she was sidelined by her knee, the Forest Park resident and outreach nurse manager with Resurrection Health Care practiced three days a week — Monday, Thursday and Saturday, unless there was a game on Saturday. “You’re pretty sore and tired,” Gladfelter said of days after practice, “but all the women have made this time commitment, so there’s no whining. You just love it.”

They must truly enjoy it. It’s a pay-to-play league, in which players pay to cover the costs of the field, referees, travel, uniforms, and equipment. There is no compensation for playing. However, players can be sponsored and, according to Gladfelter, the Chicago franchise, which plays its home games at North Park University and drew a crowd of about 800 for its home opener this season, is among the best in the league at providing fundraising/sponsorship opportunities to its players to help offset the cost.

Gladfelter has found a bonus in new friendships with teammates and opponents alike. Typically, teams travel on game day and return the following day, leaving time after the game to socialize with their opponents. “Now that I’m involved, I’ve found the team camaraderie, and being on a team with 70-plus people is amazing,” she said. “The athletes are incredible on and off the field. They’re amazing women.”

About 1,600 women play in the IWFL, which was founded in 2000 and has teams in the U.S. and Canada. Visit iwflsports.com for more information.

Nursing grad seizes football opportunity I Men’s basketball plays in inaugural CBI championship