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Portland women's tackle football team training for season it hopes begins in May.

COURTESY PHOTO: PORTLAND FIGHTING SHOCKWAVE - Hollie Petrie (9) carries the ball in a 2019 Portland Fighting Shockwave game. The womens tackle football team is preparing for a return to competition in 2021.With almost two decades of participation in tackle football, the Portland Fighting Shockwave are a unique organization.

But in 2020, their lot was the same as most teams. COVID-19 restrictions came down in March, just as the team was preparing for its season. The schedule was at first pushed back one month, then the 2020 season was canceled.

Now, the team is starting fresh and hoping to play beginning in May 2021.

"We want to make the season work, if we can," Fighting Shockwave president Rebecca Brisson said, noting that scheduling flexibility is a priority.

One of four Women's Football Alliance teams in the Pacific Northwest, the Fighting Shockwave will play home games at Hare Field in Hillsboro. The other three teams in the Shockwave's division are the Seattle Spartans, the Capitol Pioneers (Salem) and the Southern Oregon Lady Gades.

A tryout on Dec. 5 attracted about 18 players, a number that pleased Brisson. Brisson was also happy with interest at two January tryouts and said there has been interest from additional players since.

In February, the team began holding three training sessions a week, one of them in-person with players socially distanced. The two were via video conference, one a virtual workout and one a chalk talk with coaches explaining offensive and defensive schemes.

Brisson said 24 players — about one-third of them veterans — are committed to the 2021 season. Of the newcomers, about eight were to be rookies last season but didn't get to play (Brisson compares them to college football redshirt freshmen) and about eight others are in their first year with the team.

COURTESY PHOTO: PORTLAND FIGHTING SHOCKWAVE - The Portland Fighting Shockwave are hoping for a chance to return to the field in 2021, and maybe even salute their fans.In 2019, the Fighting Shockwave carried about 25 players on their roster. They would like more, but that is enough to field a team with most players playing both offense and defense. Most of those players plan to play in 2021.

Acccording to Brisson, the WFA is planning to release the schedule for 2021 around March 1.

Brisson said players understood why last season had to be canceled, noting that several Fighting Shockwave players are nurses who made teammates aware of challenges caused by COVID-19.

Whenever they get to play again, the Fighting Shockwave will have a new head coach. Asia Wisecarver took over prior to the canceled 2020 season. She played four seasons with the Portland Fighting Fillies before that team merged with the Shockwave.

Brisson is excited to have a female head coach and said Wisecarver is "phenomenal with coaching the fundamentals" of football.

This is amateur football. Players pay their way: In 2019 the team fee was $600 per player. The 2021 fee will be determined, in part, by how many games get played. Players must have their own health insurance.

Even without money coming in from player fees, Brisson said the club is in OK financial shape.

Keeping players engaged and in shape has been a different challenge, Brisson said. To keep themselves in shape for txhe next season, Fighting Shockwave players have done cardio workouts, either alone or with one teammate. In the summer and fall, the team held virtual video meetings every couple of weeks that focused on film study. There were online gatherings during Monday Night Football to boost morale.

Off the field, the Fighting Shockwave held a holiday toy drive specifically for boys and girls in the 10- to 12-year-old age range, a group Brisson said often is overlooked.

Brisson serves on the WFA board of directors and has attended regular board meetings remotely. She noted that one of the board members is a doctor who has helped establish COVID-19 safety protocols for the league and its 60 teams across the United States.

To learn more about trying out to play for the Fighting Shockwave, visit www.portlandfightingshockwave.com.


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