FONT & AUDIO
Female semiprofessional football players have Canby flavors
For the women of the Portland Fighting Shockwave, the battle that takes place on the gridiron is the result of many things. Whether it be the draw of competition, a will to be the best, or a love of smashing into other people, the Fighting Shockwave roster of 27 women are completely bought in.
There is a shared motivation for Oregon City's Melodie Abrook and St. Paul's Dani Riggleman, both of whom work in and around the Canby area. Both are driven to compete and be the best in the league.
"I have the competitive bug," Abrook said. "I've played since I was a kid, played sports. Basketball, softball. I love being active, so it kind of scares me to get old and not do things. So, I want to do as much as I can for as long as I can."
Abrook, 37, is originally from Long Island, N.Y. While there, Abrook played semi-professional basketball and made the move to playing semi-professional football after hearing about it from a basketball teammate. Abrook played for the New York Sharks while on the East Coast.
After moving to Oregon three years ago, she took time off to earn an associate's degree but signed up to play for the Fighting Shockwave. Abrook has had her playing time cut into this season after suffering a calf injury in practice, but is still excited to play the game.
"I played a little bit of offensive left tackle my first year," Abrook said. "Then I played pretty much receiver or tight end in New York. Then I came out here and they needed someone on defense as well, so I stepped in. This will be my first year of defensive end. I kind of like it."
For Riggleman, 25, it was a similar trajectory of moving over to football from another sport. A longtime high level rugby player, Riggleman made the transition after being introduced to the sport while in search of offseason competition.
"I think rugby prepared me for football," Riggleman said. "I think anyone being tackled is ready. It's hard to wrap your mind around running into a dangerous situation to get tackled, but I think rugby has prepared me for that. As well as reading gaps, seeing holes, the pure physicality of it all."
Riggleman recruited a pair of her rugby teammates join her on the Fighting Shockwave, and each sports to stay in shape for the other. Riggleman, like Abrook, uses football to satisfy a competitive urge and as a restorative force after a stressful day at work.
"I'm super competitive, I like to be the best, I like to work hard," Riggleman said. "I like to work hard towards a goal. Last year was my first year ever playing, and I made first team all-American. This year I'm looking to make all-American again, and in three years I'm looking to play for team USA."
Riggleman added, "It keeps me in shape, I stew if I'm not doing anything and get anxious. I have to be doing something all the time to keep myself in check. I have a really emotional job because I work for hospice, so playing a contact sport really helps me clear my head and take out aggression in a safe way."
Both women are supported by their friends and families, and have not experienced any blow back from participating in a historically male-dominated sport. In fact, both believe that women should get the same chance at participating as men.
"I get more people thinking it's cool," Abrook said. "It's an easier conversation opener with men for me. Especially since my line of work is very male-dominated, both of my coworkers are super excited to come to games. They're asking if I'm going to be able to play in Sacramento, they're super excited. So I get more good response than bad."
"I think it's a huge eye-opener to see women playing football," Riggleman said. "Everyone only thinks about men playing football. We're just as physical, we're just as fast, we hit just as hard, and the games are fun and enjoyable. My first game ever, a little girl walked up to me and asked for my autograph. I thought it was the weirdest thing ever, but it was super awesome. Being from a small town, these opportunities never presented themselves so I would like it to be more socially acceptable for kids to also have these opportunities."
Abrook added, "Why shouldn't girls be able to play football? It's equal opportunity."
The Portland Fighting Shockwave are currently 1-0 on the season. For more information about the team or season, scores, or fundraising opportunities, visit https://www.portlandfightingshockwave.com.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.