By Lori Bredemeyer, Managing Editor
The team on the intramural field could at best be described as unorganized. Their uniforms, if they could be called that, consist of various shades of red, and one player doesn’t even match the team in her black T-shirt.
As the flag football team, Second Wind, breaks from the huddle, instead of one solid word to yell, it’s a 1-2-3 and a scattered chorus of “team, yeah, woo-hoo!”
Players from the other team have already taken their places, and what seems like hundreds of pledges dressed in their most outrageous outfits coordinate cheers and use handmade noisemakers to encourage the Kojies.
A Second Wind player realizes her teammates are now taking their positions, and she prances onto the field saying, “Oh, are we back on?” only to prance off again when she realizes it’s not her turn to be in.
Many of the women on this self-proclaimed ragtag team have been playing intramural flag football together for about nine years, winning every game but one through those seasons.
The team consists mostly of exercise science faculty and staff, coaches, graduate assistants and some fifth-year seniors. Two of the players are over 40, and five others are older than 30.
Deonna Shake, instructor of exercise science and health and unofficial coordinator for the team, said the motivation to play is and always has been to enjoy themselves and to compete.
“Some of us don’t have that chance anymore,” Shake said.
The team wins just about every game, but Shake believes it has no secret to victory.
“We call every play just from the huddle or from the line of scrimmage,” she said. “We don’t practice, so we’re very human and can get beat, but the difference is, if you look up and down our roster, we’re filled with people who have been in competitive situations all their lives. We don’t go out there expecting anything but to win.”
Last year, the team had no problem winning as they outscored opponents 168-7. This year, the team has won all six games and has outscored opponents 150-18.
Kerri Hart, instructor of exercise science and health, has taken on the role of coach this year after retiring because of bad knees. She said a few years ago, students would get angry because they thought it was unfair for the team to play because of the lopsided success.
“They (students) didn’t think it was fair that we played because we were all coaches,” she said. “But we weren’t all coaches. I’m not a coach. And we never practice, and we’re old … so we ought to be at a disadvantage.”
Another drawback to having coaches and faculty on a team is having other responsibilities get in the way.
“Some people have night class, I teach a night class, some people have practices, some people will even have games,” Hart said, “so what’s really funny to me is just before we play, we’re always like, ‘Are we going to have enough? Who’s coming?’ And when it’s game time, we always have enough, and we just kind of stumble out there onto the field.”
Shake said although the team does not have much order, the players rely on experience when they’re on the field.
“We rely on athleticism and just knowing how to compete, and that’s a big thing,” she said. “It doesn’t mean we’re not going to get scored on or we might lose here and there, but we sure don’t go out there thinking that’s going to happen.”
Shake said the women also use the time as a way to get together outside of a professional setting.
“It’s just one more time for us socially to get together, and in the circumstances, we laugh if we bomb something,” she said. “It’s hard to make time during the day when we all have different, busy schedules. Just like students like to join a club to be able to have a group, it’s kind of our little group thing that we enjoy.”
This year the team has been able to rely on some fresher athleticism in some fifth-year seniors who recently finished college sports careers, including volleyball player Haylee Hartline and basketball players Lynsie Blau, Jenny Jackson, Leah Wilson and Holly Pruitt. The latter three played under head women’s basketball coach Shawna Lavender, who said having a younger group has brought some positive qualities to the team.
“They help to add a little speed, a little youth,” she said. “It’s fun because I get to be around them in a different environment to where we all pretty much just goof off while we’re out there. … It’s neat that they’re still around, and they get to play with us and have fun doing it. Plus, they bring a little bit of liveliness to the group.”
Although the team’s median age has dropped, Lavender, who turned 31 this semester, said it is becoming more difficult to get out on the field and play.
“The older you get, the harder it gets after every game,” she said. “[The first week] we were laughing because we were so sore after the first game, and I thought, ‘Man, I am getting really old, and it is getting harder and harder to get out there and do that.’
The only year the team lost a game, and the championship, in nine years was to the social club Delta Theta. It was a few years back, but because they win all the time, no one is sure which year it was.
The game ended in a tie, and as a tie-breaker, whoever scored the most or had the most yardage on four possessions won, Shake said. Neither team scored, but DT had more yards, so they won.
Hart said the pain of defeat didn’t last too long because they knew many of the players.
“I just remember us all being quiet,” she said, “but then it wasn’t too long before we were like, ‘That’s alright. If we’ve gotta lose, that’s a good group to lose to.'”
At other times, the group has not conceded defeat so readily. Shake said one time Carol Tabor, former ACU head softball coach and the team’s quarterback at the time, overheard the opposing team calling one of their touchdowns a fluke. Tabor decided that from that point on, they would score on every possession-and they did.
But Shake said usually it’s all just fun and games.
“The most fun we’ve had in years past is during pledging time,” she said. “… Here we come out, no uniforms, no sponsors, no fans; in fact, people love to [try to] beat us, so we’re the team that everyone likes to root against. And then we play against these club teams, and they have all their pledges with shakers and rocks and bottles, and they’re making noise, and they’re dressed up with their war paint on, and that just fires us up.”
Shake said although her team has been beaten only once, all the teams have an equal opportunity to win when they step on the field.
“We’re definitely not trying to make any enemies by playing,” she said. “Everyone has a chance just like we do to go out there with the score 0-0 and go for it.”
Part of the fun is getting to compete against students, and Hart said sometimes that rivalry continues off the field with good-natured kidding between the players and students.
Lavender said she’s enjoyed playing since the students stopped complaining “because they’re great sports, they’re fun to laugh with, they joke around with us and they talk a little trash with us.”
Although the team has maintained bragging rights for almost a decade, another reward they look forward to each year is receiving the championship T-shirt.
“The T-shirts have always been a big draw for me,” Shake said. “… It’s kind of like our little trophy.”
Lavender said Shake probably looks forward to getting the shirt more than anyone else on the team.
“To me the T-shirt probably is not as important as it is to Deonna,” she said. “Of course it’s nice to get rewarded. When you’re competitive, you want something to show for it when you win. But it’s something fun that keeps us motivated and keeps us going a little bit.”
Though the team has gone through several different rosters, combinations of players and median ages through this last decade, Lavender said she doesn’t think the team will ever be too old, at least for a few more years.
“Whenever we think we’re too old to do it, we’ll just recruit younger players,” she said. “I’ll never be too old; I don’t know, maybe Deonna and Kerri, maybe they’re too old, but I’ll never be too old.”