SALT LAKE CITY — Two Airmen from Hill Air Force Base have spent the last several months playing with the Falconz Salt Lake Women’s football team and are now headed with their team to the national championships in South Carolina.
Twenty-three-year old 2nd Lt. Emmy Raney played football with her high school team as the team kicker, but was never allowed to play other positions, so when she heard about a women’s football league, she jumped at the chance and now plays as a wide receiver.
“I was really excited because although I’d played football in high school, whenever I asked to play in other positions, they just laughed. Also, when I asked how to tackle, they jokingly said if anyone came near me, I was to hide behind the ref,” Raney said. “I thought this was a great opportunity to try different positions and play the sport I had been playing, just not to my full potential.”
Playing football wasn’t in 22-year-old 2nd Lt. Abby Buns’ athletic plans. She didn’t even know how much women’s football had grown in the country until hearing about it from friends, so after she played soccer and then rugby into her college years, her friends talked her into trying out the Falconz team. She now plays as a running back.
“Many people assume this is lingerie football, but it is definitely not that. People come out to see that everyone here has dedicated their time and is motivated to do well,” Buns said.
Raney says that is what makes women’s football different from men’s.
“You know that every person out on the field loves what they do because boys grow up with the expectation that they join the football team, sometimes with parents or peers pressuring them, but in women’s football, you don’t have that peer pressure. These women are out there because they love it and it is just as intense with girls who are blocking and literally taking them off their feet. It is pretty exciting,” Raney said.
Women’s football has been in Utah for about six years, attracting women athletes who have played softball, basketball and rugby. Falconz Head Coach Rick Rasmussen originally coached high school football for many years, and didn’t know what to expect coaching women.
“It’s so different coaching women because these ladies are paying and want to do this, whereas a good percentage of high school boys only participate because of their parents, but these ladies are there because they truly want to be there,” Rasmussen said.
However, the biggest challenge for coaching women is that they haven’t grown up with football lingo. “When I use football terms, their eyeballs usually go around like a slot wheel and they ask me what it means, so I had to figure out how to translate that into plain English, and once I figured that out, the floodgates were open and I could issue commands in terms they could understand,” Rasmussen said.
People often come to see the games and will tell Rasmussen the games look like real football. “I tell them, ‘What do you mean? This is real football.’ They are like machines because they know what to do and they do it,” Rasmussen said.
As a former Air Force officer, Rasmussen knows how the military has helped his two Airmen players. “It allows them to persevere, whereas others may throw in the towel after the first defeat. It’s one of the things that we all learn in the first six weeks at the academy,” Rasmussen said.
Buns agreed her experience in both the Air Force Academy and her service on base contributes to her efforts on the team. “
I grew up playing soccer my entire life, but in football I had to put myself out there since it is a lot more complicated to learn than I thought, but I have to keep going, which is something I learned at school,” Buns.
For more information about the team and games, visit the Utah Falconz Sports Team Facebook page.