The Women’s Football Alliance is a full contact women’s professional football league. Founded in 2008, the WFA now consists of 62 teams, two conferences (National Conference/American Conference), playing in six regions within North America. The teams play 11 on 11 tackle football with rules similar to the National Football League. The regular season consists of eight games with three playoff rounds leading to a championship match-up.
In 2011, the WFA added the DC Divas to its league. By bringing the Divas on board, the WFA inherited one of the most successful franchises in women’s professional football. Based in the Washington Metropolitan area, the Divas, formerly of the Independent Womens’ Football League, are winners of six division titles in seven seasons, with a 2006 championship under their belts.
I had the pleasure of interviewing DC Divas’ wide receiver, Lois McNeil of Silver Spring, MD.
Keith: How old were you when you first picked up a football?
Lois: I started playing football with my brother (too young to remember) but maybe around 6 years of age with the neighborhood kids. I was big on following my brother around. I played pick up games (unorganized) throughout school and college. In college I began my career with women’s pro ball.
Keith: Was the wide receiver position your first choice? Is lining up on defense an option?
Lois: When I got into the women’s league, I was placed at quarterback which I loved…until our first game. It seemed as though I had no offensive line. I got sacked numerous of times and was forced to run the ball a lot.That definitely tainted my perspective of being a quarterback. When I joined the DC Divas, I was placed as a linebacker on defense. I never imagined playing that position, since I wasn’t used to it. I eventually was placed at the wide receiver position, which is my favorite, as well as my original choice. I wouldn’t mind playing defensive back or safety.
Keith: What has been the highlight and low point of your career thus far?
The highlight would be on a personal note….I’m doing exactly what I love to do. I also have room to grow
with what I do. The league is constantly improving and so are my athletic abilities. The more I produce, the more I improve. In addition, meeting and connecting with so many other women who share similar backgrounds, as well as the same love for the game. I thought I was the only female in the world who loved football like this.
As far as my low point, it would have to be my leg injury. I broke my fibula, tibia and ankle. That was such a bummer. I had to sit…and sit…and wait….uggh! Then after recovering enough to get back and be active, I had to go through the whole process of training myself mentally as well as physically. You can’t be successful in this league if you’re scared of getting hurt.
Keith: Are there any other sports that you play outside of football?
Lois: Currently I play coed flag football and all ladies’ flag football. I also shoot pool with an APA Billiards league once a week. I go bowling and golfing every so often. I’m always up for a game of basketball. I try to stay active. I love all sports except soccer. Any opportunity I get, whether it’s golf, tennis, kickball, baseball..I’m all for it. However, football is my main focus.
Keith: What type of advice would you give to any young aspiring athlete?
The only thing standing in your way is you. At the end of the day, only you can stop yourself from
reaching your dreams. Don’t try to meet the expectations of an athlete, exceed them. If you feel like you’ve given your best, give even more. If you don’t do so, someone else will. This is your world, so be on top of it.
Keith: Any predictions as to how the DC Divas will fare this season?
Lois: Going to the championship and bringing home the ring. No doubt!
Keith: Are you a deep threat receiver like a Randy Moss/T.O., or are you a possession type receiver like Art Monk/Marvin Harrison?
Lois: I’d say I am pretty versatile but I have the speed to be a big threat on deep routes (post corner and out and up are my favorites).
Keith: What are your thoughts about the lockout in the NFL? What side do you support?
Lois: I’m not enthused about a lockout. However, I do hope that if it does happen beyond the start of the season, our league could get more recognition. With all of our hard work we deserve it! Also, it’s pretty disappointing that it’s all money issues. Every woman on my team has to work full-time jobs, take care of home, and then pay at least $760 in fees just to be eligible to play… this doesn’t include the cost for equipment such as helmets that average $300 and shoulder pads at $200. I mean, if I could just play all expenses paid and still no salary.. I’d be happy.
Keith: What are some of your future goals in life?
Lois: Probably too many to list! But first and foremost, my goal is to be the best person that I can be as a Christian, a mother, a family member, a friend, and as a role model. I’m working on my psychology degree through online classes. I’m still a bit undecided on a career goal but my back up plan to football is to work with mentally challenged teens and young adults… or to work in forensic psychology with the FBI. I’d like to also explore my talent as a singer. I also plan to produce and perform music (both gospel and R&B) in the near future. I’ve been writing songs for about 10 years now. So I have a lot of material, just need a few more tools.
My goal as an athlete is simply to be better every day. One play at a time. To progress with every practice. I’d love the off the chart stats but I just want to play as long as possible, injury free. I don’t need the spotlight, just want to accomplish and impress myself to others more and more everyday. With that said, I’d like to be one of the reasons for media outlets to air women’s professional football on a national level. I want to influence other women to come out and play as well as instilling the belief that the sky is the limit.
Keith: Who is your favorite athlete all-time? Favorite team (any sport)?
Lois: My favorite team is the Redskins. I was born a fan and I’m still dedicated to the home team. I haven’t chosen a favorite athlete yet. So for now, it will have to be me.
Keith: Pick one word to describe yourself.
Keith: What athlete, male or female, inspired you the most?
Lois: Hmm… No one particular athlete has inspired me yet. Sure I see athletes with impressive stories and backgrounds, but when I think of where my inspiration comes from it’s never really been from of a certain athlete. I can’t think of or pin point one that I said to myself, “Ooh I want to be like him/her, I gotta do what he/she did.” I just watch plays and moves that are made in general and I pay close attention to what I am doing then I always compete with myself and I’m determined to break my own records. I could care less how many touchdowns Ricky and Suzie made, I just want to continuously improve and perfect what I already have under my belt. I like to impress those who support me. When they’re excited about me and confident in me, I know I’m doing something right. So I hope it doesn’t sound selfish, but I’m just self-driven. Every time I make it through a game or practice in one piece or make a big play, I’m inspired to do more.
Keith: What type of charities are the DC Divas involved in?
Lois: Divas are always welcoming opportunities to support other organizations. We partake in many walks and I’ve known several Divas to volunteer for Special Olympics.
Keith: Being a DC Diva means what to you?
Lois: It means overcoming the roadblock that society set up for women to not play. It means there’s hope and a future for me. It means that no matter what, I can and I will. It means that finally it’s my turn. I never really imagined having a team of my own! I always thought the limit was me joining the “guys” team.
Keith: If given the opportunity, would you ever want to coach football on any level?
Lois: I would love to coach football. Really, it doesn’t matter if I’m standing on the sidelines giving my two cents about a position or if I’m head coach. I’d love to be a part of a team. Teaching, motivating, and most importantly supporting athletes.
By Keith Madyun and Lois McNeil