Article by: SHEILA MULROONEY ELDRED, Special to the Star Tribune
Updated: September 15, 2012 - 3:39 PM
From ultimate Frisbee to "footy": Marie LaVictoire plays Australian-rules football with the Minnesota Freeze.
When avid ultimate Frisbee player Marie LaVictoire moved to the Twin Cities, she quickly hooked up with a local summer league. In the winter, she tried snowboarding and rock climbing, but didn't fall in love with another sport until she finally gave in to the imploring of a Frisbee teammate and joined her at a "footy" practice. As soon as she figured out how to tackle, LaVictoire was hooked.
The Minnesota Freeze, the local Australian-rules football team, has slowly grown since its inception as a competitive club team in 2004. In 2011, a recreational league was added to act as a pathway to the club team. Since then, the team has grown tenfold, but still welcomes and recruits new players. The competitive season kicks into high gear in September, culminating in a national tournament in mid-October.
"I would say that about 85 percent of the people who know I play footy have asked me how 'rugby' has been going. The majority of people I tell I play footy will immediately say, 'Oh, you play rugby.' Most women who confuse it with rugby write off playing Australian football because of their concerns about the contact in rugby. Australian football is much more wide open and free-flowing. And while we do have contact in club footy, it's nowhere near as hard on the body as rugby. Everyone has to do a little bit of everything -- if you get the ball you have to pass it to another player on your team or score. There is a place on the field for everyone, no matter if you are super tall or tiny."
"Halfway through my second tournament I realized how tackling went and figured out how to play and fell in love. To tackle someone, you wrap your arms around them and drop your weight, all in an attempt to prevent them from hand passing or kicking the ball. There's also a lot of bumping involved, bumping before you get the ball so you can gain position. There are no pads, so it's only knees to shoulders. A lot of women are really nervous about it, so we start slow with the wrap-up. First, you play where you can't take people to the ground, and then you just naturally start to do it."
"Six women from the Freeze play for Team USA. In 2009, we toured Australia to help promote women's footy in Australia. In Australia, it's the national sport. It's like football here, but women's is still growing there. My goal for the Minnesota Freeze is to win nationals and eventually take two teams to the tournament. My goal for myself is to play this sport as long as I am able and to make it back to Australia to play in the International Cup in 2014."
"I've always been relatively in shape, and I could run fast enough to play. But in 2009, when I made Team USA for footy, I decided to get in better shape, so I started doing CrossFit and running more. This year I'm in the best shape so far: I do CrossFit four or five times a week, sometimes six. I play Frisbee once a week, footy twice a week, and I do a tempo [running workout] once a week and a track workout once a week."
"The culture of the sport is a big reason I play. It's a very welcoming sport, and we try to be a very welcoming team. It's really great to see women who maybe haven't played a team sport before come out and play and get better. Since footy is a newish sport in the U.S., I know many of the women who play, and one of the best things about tournaments is being able to see and play with the amazing women who love the sport."