“I have always loved the game, watching and playing. I like the physicality of it.” And that is how Jennifer Dennison started her journey to playing in the Lingerie Football League (LFL).
“I was the girl in the back yard with her older brother and all of his friends getting sprained thumbs and bruises from being tackled over the hedge. They didn’t take it easy on me because I was a girl, so I guess I have them to thank”. Dennison has a passion and possesses a competitive fire that makes her the asset she is to the Green Bay Chill and that’s something the expansion team needs in it’s first season.
“Of course, as an expansion team there isn’t the luxury of having vets or even the experience of playing together in prior seasons but I still feel everyone on the team steps out onto the field with one thought in mind; win. To make an impact, you have to have leadership and follow through. Talk is cheap but if you can back it up, play ball and put points on the board people will notice.”
Although the journey has been difficult for the Green Bay Chill as it is with any expansion team, Dennison has proven she is a valuable player and essential to the future success of the franchise. A fact that doesn’t go unnoticed in Green Bay. “One of my coaches once said to me ; – What’s different about you Jen, is that you want it SO bad! You have a drive to get better and it shows, and is contagious to your teammates – I am quite determined and when I set my sights on a goal I won’t stop until I get there.”
Dennison brings the intensity that all the athletes in the LFL bring. But many may not know what the LFL is and what it’s truly about. The Lingerie Football League (LFL) is a women’s 7-on-7 tackle American football league that was created in 2009.
The playing style in the LFL is full-contact and very similar to other indoor football leagues. LFL uniforms consist of shoulder pads, elbow pads, knee pads, garters, bras, panties, and ice hockey-style helmets with clear plastic visors instead of face masks.
There are no field goals and no punts in an LFL game. There are seven women on each side of the 50-yard field, teams consist of 20 players and there are usually three or four players who play both offense and defense. Dennison is one of them. She is a running back and a defensive line player for the Chill.
But don’t underestimate the ladies of the LFL, particularly Dennison.
“The biggest misconception is that it (the LFL) is just girls running around in their underwear. We have all sorts of girls on our team from Nurses and Med students to stay at home moms but we all share one passion, the game of football. I think there are some people that judge us just on the “L” word, but they are surprised when they actually see a game. They see that we are athletes, we know the game of football and we hit hard. I think the “L” word comes with a blanket preconception and leads to the assumption that it is all that it is about.
However, some of the people that have kept an open mind and checked it out have become our biggest fans. It’s a matter of overcoming a stigma.”
But while Dennison sees the negatives the misconception can create, she also sees the advantages of being an attractive woman playing football.
“It’s true that without that aspect it wouldn’t get as much attention and I can speak from experience, having played on an all women’s 11 on 11 outdoor football team before trying out for the Chill. Our game attendance was about 200, compared to 3000-4000 with the Chill and we definitely didn’t have national TV coverage by MTV2 either. Life is about choices and sometimes we have to make choices that are kind of tough in order to get where we want to be. Playing in the LFL is a great opportunity and if it means wearing a little more than what I would to the beach while I play, I’ll take it.”
Just like any athlete in any sports, the LFL is full of competitive fire and a love for the game that drives every player each and every day. “I only have one goal for my career, and that is to continue to be a student of the game. I want to get better and learn something every day and have fun doing it! My proudest accomplishments have just been making the team, and realizing how far I have come when I look at where I am now compared to where I was just starting out.”
Starting out wasn’t exactly easy. Grueling tryouts and a training camp run by an LFL Coaching staff with NFL experience. The LFL first caught Dennison’s attention as she was channel surfing one evening. “My first encounter with the LFL was running across it while flipping channels at home and the first thing I thought was, I have to do this!” I have always loved the sport, and I was excited to think I could play it professionally. I made it my goal right there on the couch and started by ramping up my training that week.”
The Green Bay Chill are coached by former Green Bay Packer great Gilbert Brown. Coach Brown is no stranger to success in football and more importantly, how to succeed on the football field while playing in Green Bay.
“Playing for Coach Brown has been a great experience. We all know that when we are on the field it’s time to work. We are there to learn and get better and it’s hard to make excuses when you are playing for a guy that went a whole season on a Championship team with a torn tricept that needed surgery. But, when practice is done, we know he cares and he’s there for us and has our backs too. “
The Green Bay Chill have started the 2011 LFL season with a 1-2 record. Their first 2 games ended in losses to the Minnesota Valkyrie and the Seattle Mist. Although they barely lost their opening game to Minnesota 28-25, Seattle handed them a lopsided 42-8 loss.
The Chill would bounce back against the Chicago Bliss, wining that game 36-34 and proving the season was not yet over.
“We had a couple hard losses against the Minnesota Valkyrie and Seattle Mist at home at the Resch Center but came back an redeemed ourselves at Toyota Park against the Chicago Bliss. I think the greatest challenge for us has just been staying healthy. A lot of the girls on our team have suffered injuries, many of them being season ending injuries like blown ACL’s and with a roster of 20 there really isn’t a second string to pull from. When a key player goes down it can mean rearranging half the team or someone ultimately playing O and D.”
It’s clear that Dennison is a player the Green Bay Chill can build a future with. A player with passion, intelligence and a drive to be a student of the game are sure to make her a contributor on both sides of the ball.
Qualities like that can be found not only throughout the Green Bay roster but also across the league. Above all else, Dennison wants everyone to know that if you love the game of football then you would certainly love the action in the LFL.
“Games in the LFL are fast paced, high energy and typically high scoring. Giving you a few technical details, we have two 17 min halves, and we only kick off at the beginning of the game and the start of the second half. We don’t kick Field Goals or punt. If the fourth down isn’t converted the other team takes over on the 10 yard line and extra points are one or two point conversions from the 3 or 5 yard line respectively. Oh, and you can expect to see athletic women making big plays, and taking and giving hard hits.”
Hard hits, sound football, intensity and beautiful women leave very little to be desired for any football fan. With up and coming players ready to shine just like Dennison is it’s going to be hard to ignore the Green Bay Chill, the LFL and Jennifer Dennison.
– interview by Anthony DiMoro
Check out the Green Bay Chill’s first win of the season: