As the fall season begins, as does football season for many across the country, including Hampton Roads.
For John Leigh and his sister, Tomeka Leigh, football has gone beyond the game since starting the Hampton Roads HERricanes, a women’s tackle football team, in Hampton Roads this season.
“It’s empowering to do something someone says you can’t do, or to have the courage to take the risk and try something that’s foreign to others around them,” John Leigh said.
“Women tend to be more apprehensive when it comes to wondering if they’re fast enough or strong enough and it’s our job as coaches to show them they are fast enough and they are strong enough.”
And, while the idea of women playing tackle football remains taboo, John Leigh said to the surprise of some, “this is real football.”
After the team Tomeka Leigh’s 24-year-old daughter played on for three years fell through, John Leigh said they decided to create their own with other athletes who wanted to continue playing.
He’d always been involved with football throughout and after graduating high school in 1995, but after his niece became a women’s tackle football athlete, he soon became invested in the sport and emerged as the HERricanes’ head coach with Tomeka Leigh as the team’s owner.
To start their new season, they’re looking for women ages 16 and older who are ready to put forth the work and are willing to learn while running drills and workouts in both Hampton and Norfolk.
While the team is based in Newport News, John Leigh said meeting in other localities provides more women the opportunity to come out and try it for themselves before they commit.
Once the season starts, athletes would be expected to attend two to three practices a week and play in eight games, not including playoffs, in Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, and the Carolinas.
“Women’s football is on the rise so I would just hope people open their minds and their hearts to give it a try whether it’s as an athlete, a fan, or a supporter of a local team,” John Leigh said.
The Hampton Roads HERricanes are seeking sponsorships, but for now, costs associated with membership for travel, equipment, and fees vary so be sure to contact John Leigh or Tomeka Leigh via the HERricanes’ Facebook page, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.