in the pants
Karma encourages women
to reach goals via football
Helen E. McKinney
(June 2007) If someone had told Melissa Ward when
she was a young girl growing up in Indianapolis that she would one day
be a member of a professional womens football team, she would
have laughed in their face.
Ward is the offensive tackle for
the Kentucky Karma football team.
Now at 38, Ward plays offensive tackle for the Kentucky
Karma football team. Kentucky Karma is a team in the National Womens
Football Association and plays games within the Midwest region. Home
games are played at 7 p.m. at Holy Cross High School Alumni Field.
Ward always had a keen interest in physical activity, but there werent
many sports opportunities other than gymnastics, dance and cheerleading
when she was younger. During her sophomore year of high school, Ward
moved to New Jersey, where she found more sports options at her new
This school was a little more progressive with its womens
sports programs, said Ward. I played basketball and threw
the discus and shot put for the track team.
Due to her experience on the track team, she became interested in running
and weightlifting, which she continued to pursue in college.
Ward earned an Air Force ROTC scholarship and was required to take physical
training on a weekly basis. She majored in political science and criminal
justice at Indiana University in Bloomington, and currently serves as
the executive director for the Arts Association of Oldham County.
Ward said that being a member of Kentucky Karma is a pretty big
commitment. She attends practice from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. every
Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with games on Saturday.
Jay Torsch, Kentucky Karma coach, introduced Ward to the concept of
joining a professional womens football team. Torsch, a board member
and coach for the Oldham County Youth Football League, said I
thought she might be interested after having talked with her about her
son playing youth league football, so I suggested she try out.
Encouraged by Torsch, Ward made the team in December 2006. I didnt
realize there was a professional womens football team anywhere,
let alone right outside of Oldham County!
Thomas Hawkins Sr., is co-head coach and owner of Kentucky Karma. Playing
on the football team is a passion for most of them. Its
something theyve always wanted to do.
Hawkins, a former coach for the Oldham County School System, said the
football franchise came to Oldham County in 2004. A staff was created
to handle the franchise, but when changes were later made in the coaching
staff, he was approached to become head coach.
He resisted at first, but decided it was an opportunity to take
a program and build on it. It is an on-going process he said,
and he hopes to build the franchise as good as any in the NWFA and build
a team that is competitive enough to strive for the championship each
About 96 percent of the players are women who have played other sports,
said Hawkins. He said Ward is a dedicated player with a desire to do
Ward said that being a part of Kentucky Karma fulfilled a dream for
her to do something people said couldnt be done. I have
always wanted to do things people said women shouldnt or simply
arent able to do, and to prove them wrong.
But its not an easy task for any woman to keep up with the practice
schedule required of the team. Most women juggle children, after school
events, jobs and many other priorities that make it difficult for them
to devote time to something they want to do and not feel guilty about
Ward compares herself to a single working mom because her husband works
out of town and doesnt have to juggle her hectic schedule. Every
now and then a game might be sacrificed because of a sick child, board
meeting for work or her childrens games, but Ward says she always
gives 100 percent of herself to the team when possible.
Because we have to sacrifice more to make it to this level of
achievement, Ward ventured to say that women are even more competitive
than men who play football. They also have to endure a wide spectrum
of remarks that are made quite often.
Most of the people I have talked to have been first amazed, then
very supportive and interested in the League, she said. However,
there are still those individuals who retain a stereotypical idea of
what women should and should not do.
Physically, I would say that a womans physical stature is
both an advantage and hindrance in this sport, said Ward, who
is 5-foot-9. While the teams smaller, quicker running backs could
run rings around the men, Ward said she definitely wouldnt want
to be up against some of the NFLs finest D-Linemen.
In addition to playing offensive tackle, Ward has also been trained
as a defensive guard. Torsch said that while we have different
goals for offense and defense, our team goals are the same as any other
football team. Get better, be competitive, win.
But Ward has learned that football is only partly physical. There
is a huge mental component to football that I didnt know existed
until I began to play, said Ward.
She believes women excel at such tactics as learning the plays and calls,
how to read the opponents moves, and how to improvise at a moments
notice. To be a member of Kentucky Karma, Torsch believes women need
to be athletic, competitive, dependable, honest, have good sportsmanship
and good character. All the same qualities that Ward has.
For more information, visit: www.kentuckykarma.com.
Three games are scheduled in June before the playoffs start June 23.
Back to June 2007 Articles.