In a plush corner nearly fifty meters away from the home plate at Banneker Recreation Center’s baseball field, four orange cones sit between a football player and the rest of her teammates. The women are in the middle of practice and doing their version of the popular “Oklahoma” drill, which was originally designed to test the aggressiveness of a team through close-quarters contact. The drill ends only if the ball carrier is tackled or driven out of bounds.
But instead of bodies hitting the floor, flags fly near little girls on the side of the field watching their moms compete.
It’s been six years since the DMV Diamonds, a women’s flag football team based in Northwest D.C., went silent. Now, with new, committed members and a reality show, DMV Diamonds Women’s Flag Football, on the WDMV network, the Diamonds are back to prove their worth on the field and send a message to generations of girls who want to play in the male-dominated sport.
Kenneth Frasier,founder of the Diamonds, moved to D.C. from Nashville in 2008 to expand his fitness career. After a year of moving into a new city and building connections in the fitness world, Frasier found the DMV Diamonds Women’s Flag Football team. The team was not only an opportunity for women to get fit by competing, but to also use their play as a platform for more philanthropic efforts around the city. With many young professionals on the team, the Diamonds have used their work experience and talents to help make a difference in their local community. In October, the team helped raise $4,000 for the American Cancer Society as a team participant in this year’s Tug-Of-Wharf at District Square.
“About 10 years ago, we started at Malcolm X Park,” says Frasier. “We [wanted] to start a women’s group [that] got together to play flag football, do free workouts, and also some charity. We go to the women’s shelter [to] give out hair products and we go to homeless shelters to feed the homeless. We kind of fuse community service work with football, and lastly, bring the cameras out so the ladies can talk about what they’re passionate about.”
In their first four years, the Diamonds gained popularity around D.C. thanks to the early rise of social media through Facebook posts and YouTube clips. But the team became defunct in 2013 after Frasier made a career switch and could no longer devote the same energy toward the team.
More recently, Frasier has heard from women asking him to bring the team back, so he relaunched the DMV Diamonds in August with support from coaches like Anton Jackson and volunteers like Chris Jerome. Jackson was one of the first coaches to work with the Diamonds in 2009, while Jerome, who appeared in their recent YouTube episode in September,isa choreographer who has worked with acts from Frank Ocean to Kool and The Gang and the founder of the D.C.-based dance company,Crome.
But challenges still lay ahead for the Diamonds. The team was scheduled to play Howard University’s women’s flag football team Oct. 6th, but cancelled the date because the team wasn’t ready to play, according to Frasier.
In order to get off the ground, the Diamonds are working to acquire equipment that matches their level of play and potential. Aside from regularly posting their interest in teaming up with partners and sponsors through social media, Frasier launched a GoFundMe with a goal of $2,500 to contribute to the team’s lodging, travel, and competitive needs.
“To he honest bro we need uniforms, gloves, and cleats before we line up against other teams,” Frasier says. “So I’m basically focused on trying to get support.”
Former University of Maryland football and NFL cornerback Richard Taylor serves as the team’s trainer. With an experienced staff in place, Frasier wants the players to take more responsibility for practices, events, and management of the team.
“I had a career change that took me out of health and fitness. So I didn’t have the free time to do it,” Frasier says. “That’s why this time I’m trying to empower the women to be able to take more ownership over the team and the events.”
Currently, the Diamonds have about 20 players, consisting of semi-pro players and newcomers to the sport.
First string quarterback Nneka Lynn boasts a rocket arm and can burn defenders when facing pressure from the defense. In the slot, the Diamonds count on receiver Julia Walsh, who is the team’s deep threat receiver. On defense, linebacker Bria Symone is an aggressive flag stealer, while fellow teammate Bliss Power has the reach and toughness to stop receivers in their tracks.
While each player’s knowledge varies, the players share a strong bond. The Diamonds’ corner, Donalyn Holloway, plays cornerback, and her daughter, Kaylen, lines up as the safety. Many of the girls shared in Power’s excitement when she talked about how she lost 20 pounds in her first month being on the team.
“The biggest [thing] for me is that all the women within the team come from different backgrounds,” Symone says. “Some women are D.C. natives born and raised [and] some are like me where we came here … [to find] our niche and figuring out where we fit in to this whole puzzle of D.C. It’s been great to see how we were strangers about a month ago … and we can just bond beyond playing the game.”
Players on the team believe their participation in the sport will show that women can be competitive in football.
“You would think that you would hear ‘women’s football team’ and different connotations come to mind, like the Lingerie League. But, obviously we’re not out here in lingerie and we don’t plan to be on the field,” Symone says. “What I appreciate is that we’ve been able to be in front of other little girls, show them that we can do something like this and them feel like they have the capacity to do something that they don’t necessarily see themselves in.”
The Diamonds’ rescheduled debut game is now set for Thanksgiving Day against the D.C. Police women’s flag football team. The players expect to be ready by then. Some of them have been waiting since 2013 for this moment.