Another Richmond women’s football team will hit the turf this spring.
River City Sting, Richmond’s newest women’s tackle football team, will play its inaugural season this coming March. The team, whose mascot is a turquoise scorpion, aimed to start last spring but postponed due to the pandemic.
“We want to be seen, and we want to be recognized for having amazing athletes. We want to be just as visible as the guys,” said C.J. James, owner and president of the River City Sting.
The team is Richmond’s second women’s tackle football team, following the Richmond Black Widows. James said River City Sting is not planning to play in the same league as the Black Widows.
Sara Schkeeper brought Richmond the first women’s tackle football team. Schkeeper was a starter on the offensive line for the New York Sharks, a New York-based team. She was a part of the team when it won its gold medal at the International Federation of Football championship in Finland in 2013. A year later, she left the Sharks to move to Richmond and quickly got into the process of starting her own team.
James was always fascinated with football, but she never had the opportunity to play until she joined the Black Widows. James played for the Black Widows before becoming pregnant and eventually quitting. She couldn’t stay away from the sport, though, and instead of joining the same team or a different squad, she decided to start one instead.
James didn’t intend for her team to be seen as competition for the Black Widows. Rather, she wants River City Sting to be seen as a homage for the athletes who played before her and allow other women the opportunity she was given.
“They’ve paved the way for us to come in and expand the road of women’s football,” James said.
Women’s football continues to be a steadily growing sport, with women making up 10.9% of the 5.5 million Americans who play tackle football, according to a report by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. Similar progress can be seen in girls who play high school football.
Yet women’s sports receive only about 4% of all sports media coverage, despite women occupying comprising over 40% of those participating in sports. The Women’s Football Alliance, the longest running women’s tackle football team in the world, started in 2009, nearly 90 years after the birth of the National Football League.
Starting River City Sting was a way for James to finally participate in the sport she loved so dearly. After the passing of her mother in 2013, James wanted to find some form of catharsis to ease the grieving.
No prior football experience or fitness level is required for those who try out — James ensures that those interested in women’s tackle football, regardless of level, will have the opportunity to participate.
“Our coaches teach everyone how to play football and will turn you into a football player,” James said.
The team, which also doubles as a 501©(3) nonprofit organization, chose to do so in order to partner with local organizations and provide resources for the team and its community.
James, along with some of her fellow teammates, contributed many of their own funds to start the team, but they are looking to raise $5,000 to purchase necessary materials such as uniforms and equipment. Players will have to pay a fee starting at $350, which could vary depending on sponsorships.
The team will host workouts, open to the public every Saturday until the end of the month, at Montrose Elementary School in Henrico County.
Thirty people can play on the River City Sting team, the standard for most leagues, but James said there is no limit to how many people can be drafted.
James and the team will decide what other women’s football teams they’re going to play toward the beginning of next year.
“This is something people should be able to come in and enjoy, just like any other sporting event,” she said.
For more information on River City Sting, visit rivercitysting.com.
Saturday, Nov. 7, is National Women’s Football Alliance Tryout Day and also the first day of tryouts for River City Sting. Tryouts will be held that day from 10 a.m. to noon and on Nov. 14 and Nov. 21 during the same two-hour period. Those wishing to try out will have to pay a $20 fee or a $25 fee if they sign up on the day of the tryout. All tryouts will be at Montrose Elementary at 2820 Williamsburg Road.