Flag football’s public awareness has been raised several notches this summer with the introduction of a women’s league.
It’s incredibly competitive and one team, Walkers Wonders, are so far the most successful.
Actually, Walkers Wonders are aptly named, displaying some wonderful, flowing moves in their six games.
So it is no wonder then that they are unbeaten this season and having played all the other teams in the Cayman Islands Flag Football League feel confident they can maintain a perfect record for the next six.
Women’s flag football has really taken off this season and every Saturday at the Dart Football Field in Camana Bay they play their hearts out in fixtures sandwiched between the men’s games.
The other women’s sides all have colourful names: Burger King Buccaneers, Digital Design Storm, Hammerheads Lady Pirates, DMS Hellkittens, Maples Too Hot To Handle and Jose’s Escape Gasolinas.
More fluid and open than the men’s version, the women may be less experienced yet the commitment is just as strong. Most of the women’s teams train twice a week at the George Hicks field, coached by their male counterparts.
Perry ‘Boywonder’ Levy is Wonders’ head coach. A team leader in corporate administration at the Walkers law firm, he helped form the side, the nucleus of whom work at Walkers.
The Walkers squad is: Dionne O’Garro-Anglin, Tonya Ebanks, Kitti ‘Bracka’ Conolly, Tonya ‘Lil Tee’ Ebanks, Rachelle ‘Rocky’ Peterson, Isatou ‘Sey Wha’ Sey, Jordana Clarke, Krishan Welcome, Sophy Broad, Malaqui Lovinggood and Keisha Anglin.
Levy is one of the outstanding receivers in the Goldfield Cayman WB Hellcats side. Besides flag, he also plays basketball, softball and rugby.
‘Once the women’s league became official, I sent an email – in my capacity as PR officer of the league – to everyone that I felt would be interested,’ Levy says.
‘When she got my email, Kitti Connolly approached Walkers about possibly funding a team, something which they readily agreed to do.
‘Once the funding was secured she then sent two internal emails – one inviting staff members to join and the other to me about possibly coaching the team.
‘Ida, Krishan, Tonia, Jordana and Keisha immediately signed up, and because we needed numbers family members and friends were recruited – hence Malaqui, Sophy, Dionne and Rachelle.’
Levy believes they’ve started so well because of a number of factors. ‘One is the girls are enthusiastic and dedicated. Also, they are all athletic having played other team sports before and another reason is their ability to execute strategy on game days.
‘The biggest factor I believe however has been the cohesiveness of the team. There is true camaraderie amongst the Walkers Wonders.
‘As the head coach, I am responsible for evaluating the team and putting players in positions where they can be successful and scouting the competition to determine weaknesses to implement as a game plan/strategy.’
Levy is ably supported by Brad Connolly, Kitti’s brother. He is their defensive coordinator.
‘His schemes and timely decisions have lead to us being one of the better defensive teams in the league,’ says Levy.
‘I honestly think we’re capable of going unbeaten and the girls are starting to believe it as well.
‘I think when you talk about going unbeaten; three things have to go in your favour: staying healthy, commitment and execution and a little luck.’
Brad knows his stuff as he is a key cornerback in defense for the Caybrew Farm Soldiers, the side that sensationally snapped the Hellcats two-year unbeaten run last month.
‘Wonders are so far, so good,’ says Brad who is playing flag for the third consecutive year. He is also a Tigers footballer and shoots hoops. He is a corporate administrator for Ogier.
‘The girls’ success is very much down to them being such a tight team. In flag all the players have to be on the same page much more so than other team sports.
‘I’m surprised that none of them had played before because they have picked it up so quickly.’
So far Walkers only had a crisis in one game, when losing 13-7 against the Lady Pirates. They drew level near the end before taking the lead.
‘The Pirates threw a desperation ball in the dying seconds and we ran it back for a touchdown,’ says Brad.
‘So the 25-13 victory does not really reflect how close the match really was. Both were undefeated at the time so it should be another close game next time.’
Levy adds: ‘Their quarterback, Ali Amos, has a good running and passing game. It’s difficult to scheme against her. She has great improvisation skills.
‘Our stars on offense is Jordana and Krishan who is arguably the best skill position player in the women’s league. On the defensive side, Malaqui and Isatou are our stars. They top the leader board for stats.’
There is certainly no lack of confidence in the Walkers side. Sophie Broad says: ‘I’ve developed a real appreciation for the level of skill and focus this sport demands.
‘I’ve grown to love the game, but what makes it an enjoyable experience for me are my team-mates.
‘I think that the key to our success so far has been our unwavering support and encouragement of one another.
‘In addition, we have coaches who are always asking for more from us, pushing us to play better and improve our game. We do not rest on our laurels.’
Lovinggood loves the vibe. ‘The atmosphere on the field every Saturday is what I look forward to each week,’ she says. ‘It’s great to be with people who all have a love for the game. The players and fans alike are always in game mode and it’s guaranteed to be an entertaining day.
‘Everyone is there to watch the games, talk strategy, drink, eat and have a good time.
‘CIFFA should be very proud of their league and I will continue to support them and hope that football continues to grow.’
Clarke admits: ‘I never understood the fascination with flag football until I started playing. There’s something about this sport that leaves you wanting more. What I enjoy most is that strategy comes first, skill set second; with enough determination anyone can play this game.’
Quarterback Clarke, an IT trainer at Walkers, is married to cyclist Gary Clarke so there is no lack of sporting interest in their household. She is Lovinggood’s sister.
Clarke plays softball, gaelic football and touch rugby as well. She plays down her significance as the team QB. ‘I think the catchers are more important than me,’ she insists. ‘I never chose to play QB, Perry tried people out in different positions and decided this is where I should be. He calls the plays.
‘This is very much a team sport. Our success I put down to how well we support each other. It’s nice to be unbeaten.
Levy adds: ‘All great teams find something to hold on to, something to motivate them, something to inspire them. I believe the idea of going undefeated is that something for us.’
Kitti Connolly is obviously the team joker. She says: ‘We’re a great looking bunch of girls who play and watch football. I think that makes us pretty much perfect.’
She is a centre (of attraction) and enjoys softball, volleyball and basketball too. ‘Perry told me this would be the best sport and he’s right. The other sports I play are co-ed, we as women seem to have a better unity. I’m so grateful to Walkers for sponsoring us. They’re a great firm to work for.’
Kitti works as a human resources administrator at Walkers. She admits: ‘I’m more the mouth of the team, not so much a physical presence.
‘We have great coaches in Perry and my brother Brad and I think Jordana is the league’s best quarterback. She’s Cayman’s Brett Favre!’
Krishan Welcome is best known as the women’s national team football captain. Her athletic ability is being put to good use on the flag field.
She says: ‘An interesting fact is I’m just coming off an undefeated season with my football team so an undefeated flag football season would be an icing on the cake.’
Peterson says: ‘It has been great to see players from all different sports come together to learn a new sport. It’s brought out a competitive edge in each of us, while at the same time creating new friendships and an even stronger determination to master the game.’
O’Garro-Anglin sums the side’s spirit up nicely. ‘As a team, we have learnt to trust and appreciate each other. Coach Perry and Brad set the foundation and we’ve benefited from their guidance.’