Flying the flag needs support

Flag football has been one of Cayman’s fastest growing sports since its inception as an organized format in 2001.

Growing from a handful of only men’s teams, to now welcoming over 500 players who have signed onto the Cayman Islands Flag Football Association, roughly 175 of those players are female.

Two years ago saw the start of the women’s league, with an overwhelming response of ladies who signed up for the various five-a-side teams. Last year brought in an even greater amount of females, this time more experienced, and much more competitive.

After two years of watching the ladies play, talk amongst some of the coaches about forming a women’s national team was in the air.

Two months ago football enthusiast Brendon Malice, Cayman Islands Flag Football Association treasurer Rex Whittaker, and others, speared the formation of the Cayman Islands National Women’s Flag Football Team.

Tryouts were held over a few weeks, setting apart the more dedicated players against those who either couldn’t commit the time, or did not want to participate in the new game format of eight-woman tackle football.

Now with 18 players training since then, the first national women’s team will be participating in a national tournament in Kissimee, Florida on 15-17 January.

The tournament is hosting over 300 men and women’s teams from all over the US, and some teams visiting from international destinations.

Cayman’s three quarterbacks are Jessica Cribb-Pawlik, Lisa Malice and Dionne Whittaker.

Brendon Malice, who is women’s team head coach, said: “We’re excited to see how the ladies progressed, especially coming from five-a-side to eight women on the field at once, and also introducing tackle. CIFFA rules don’t call for tackle in the women’s league and seeing each player develop their skill and adapt to a new style of football is impressive.

“While we are trying to expose the women to a more serious and competitive level of flag football, we’re also going to enjoy the tournament in Florida, and with the skill level that the Cayman women’s team is showing, we’re also going to win.’

However, along with an intense training schedule, the team has to fundraise to send the players, plus three coaches to Florida.

“It’s been a bit difficult, given the time frame, and the busy holiday season, for us to raise the $14,000 needed for our team to participate in the tournament,” said Kathy Miller, one of the team’s running backs. Two other running backs include Scimone Campbell and Alecia Dixon.

“One of our last efforts before we go away is our boat cruise, ‘Fresh Tracks’, tomorrow. We’re hoping to be blessed with good weather and a packed boat, full of supporters for our team and our efforts.”

The boat cruise will be aboard the Sundancer, and will be leaving the Yacht Club at 8pm tomorrow evening. DJ Neko will drop the music, tickets are only $15, and available through any one of the national team members, or by calling 926-3030. Supporters are also welcome to purchase tickets directly at the boat, prior to sailing time.

Squad: Alicia Dixon, Lisa Juaneza, Cindy Belkaitis, Jessica Cribb-Pawlik, Katherine Miller, Camille Solomon, Dionne Whittaker, Keisha Terry, Ann-Marie Douglas, Betsy Smith, Denise Williams, Eleanor Berry, Nadisha Walters, Lisa Malice, Christine Bisnauth, Emily Vaka’uta, Erin Marshall, Scimone Campbell. Head coach: Brendon Malice.