When Columbus East senior Kendra Pastrick was taking a break while working at a local restaurant last summer, a co-worker told her about a new women’s tackle football team, the Columbus Vanguards.
The co-worker showed Pastrick a Facebook post about the team looking for players. Pastrick was instantly attracted to the new team because it gave her an opportunity to fulfill a dream.
Pastrick will realize that dream Saturday when she lines up at halfback and linebacker for the Vanguards in their season opener against the Flint City Riverters at Knightstown High School.
“I have five older brothers who love football,” Pastrick said. “They all played, but my parents protected me and wouldn’t let me play football against boys. I’ve played fast-pitch softball for several years. When I heard there was a women’s tackle football team starting up in Columbus, I wanted to be a part of it right away.”
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Fans can follow this team on social media by visiting its Facebook page or following the team on Twitter. To find the team on each of these platforms, fans can search @CbusVanguards.
The Vanguards will be playing in their first football game ever Saturday. They are competing in Division 3 of the Women’s Football Alliance. The 20 women are proud to represent Columbus even though they will not be playing in Columbus.
The WFA requires that all gameday venues have locker rooms with showers and a press box. This means that the Vanguards can only play their home games at Columbus East or Columbus North locally.
Since the team got its schedule from the WFA in January, finding a place to play games has been a challenge, and they are grateful to play in Knightstown.
“It’s all about giving women from Columbus the opportunity to play this sport,” Vanguards safety and co-owner Brittany Langley said. “We hope to play home games at Columbus East or Columbus North during our second season, and we are grateful to practice on the Columbus PAAL fields and work out at Columbus Fit.”
The local support allows the Vanguards to be the first team in the history of the league to not charge player fees. It’s quite an achievement, considering the Vanguards also represent the smallest city in the WFA.
The team enjoys performing community service in conjunction with their sponsors. For each local sponsor they acquire, the team donates one hour of community service on the sponsor’s behalf, such as cleaning up trash at Mill Race Park.
Langley’s proud co-owners of the team are her mother and her stepfather, Robin and Ken Haworth. Ken Haworth also is the team’s head coach. It has been a rewarding experience for Ken Hayworth preparing his team for its first season.
“Whenever someone makes a big play in practice, it’s a fatherly moment for me,” he said. “In most cases, I’m the only coach these women have ever had, and so I’m responsible for breaking down the game and teaching it to them. They have listened so well.”
Despite its inexperience, the team has been able to listen to and comprehend Hayworth because he didn’t use football terms at first.
“He couldn’t use words like fumble or turnover at first,” Pastrick said. “Most of us didn’t know what that meant, so he talked how you lose the football.”
Anyone who is 18 or older can play, and Pastrick looks up to older teammates like Bethanie Barber.
Barber will line up at tight end and defensive back for the team. Although she has played flag football, she knew nothing about playing defensive back or tight end before she joined the team.
Barber is glad her daughters, 4-year- old Kalahn and 1-year-old Gwendolyn, can watch her practice at the PAAL fields twice at a week. Robin Haworth watches children of the players while their mothers practice.
Barber knows the impact that this team can have on future generations.
“I am grateful to be an example for my daughters and anyone who thinks she is limited by her gender,” she said. “I want to show them they can go after anything they want. I always feel a mixture of excitement, nervousness and an intense purpose when I step onto the field because this team is my family, and we are very supportive of each other.”
The 2018 Columbus Vanguards schedule (home games will be at Knightstown High School):
- Saturday;Flint City Riverters;7 p.m.
- April 14;Columbus (Ohio) Comets;7 p.m.
- April 21;at Cincinnati Sizzle; 6 p.m.
- April 28;at Wisconsin Dragons; 7 p.m.
- May 5;at Minnesota Vixen;6 p.m.
- May 12;Toledo Reign;7 p.m.
- May 26;at Knoxville Lightning;6 p.m.
- June 9;Cincinnati Sizzle;7p.m.