That friend was right. Tiamfook (RB, #28) quickly became one of the leading scorers on the team, able not just to maneuver around defenders but power through them as well. In fact, it seems that the greatest challenge she faces in her football career is getting people to get her last name right. (I’ve seen Tian Foon in writing; Emory Hunt, the Football Gameplan guy, calls her Tiamfork and at least twice during last Saturday’s game, Toin Coss Announcer Guy pronounced it “Zelee”.) In exchange for spelling it correctly, she was kind enough to answer some questions for us before this week’s away game against DC.
Some people refer to teams like the Militia as women’s pro football, since there is no “higher” level. Some call it semi-pro, as players are not paid (and, in fact, have to pay in order to play). And others don’t like either of those terms. When you explain what you play to people who haven’t heard about it before, what do you call it?
When I talk about women’s football, I refer to it as semi-pro. In my mind, professional athletes are compensated for their time, putting their bodies at risk, representing their cities, and entertaining their fans. As you stated, not only are we not paid, we are asked to either find a sponsor or pay a “player fee” out of pocket. I must admit that this is one of the questions that I am asked most often and unfortunately one of the very few things I am embarrassed to talk about.
Game day is made up of a bunch of smaller pieces: whatever one does in the morning before meeting up with the rest of the team, pre-game rituals, warmup, taking the field, early game, halftime, late game, post-game rituals, afterparty, whatever else is in there that I don’t know about because I don’t play football. What is your favorite part of game day?
Game day rituals for me start long before the actual day of the game. I am normally not great about drinking water, but on game weeks, I turn hydration into a part time job (my teammates joke that I should get an endorsement deal from Vita Coco because I’m always seen drinking coconut water). There is also tons of time spent watching film and doing visualizations. I don’t just run through the plays in mind, I’m actually thinking about how I want to position my body, where the defenders will be and how I will handle them. My favorite part of game day is when I step on the field for my very first play. Practice is over, hydrating is over, warm-up and stretching are over, coaches are muted, it’s just me and my teammates against the other “guys”.
Which is more fun: running with the ball when you guys have totally fooled the defense and there’s no one in front of you at all, or running with the ball straight over, around and through a bunch of defenders?
No contest…I much prefer to run over a defender. There is no greater feeling than running over a person that is trying to tackle you.
What is something that’s made you feel supported as a Militia player?
There are several examples but one incident immediately comes to mind. In the summer of 2011, I can remember coming out of a long, hot, tiring practice. As I dragged my aching body to my car, I could hear an SUV coming down the road along side me honking his horn. I turned to look as it slowly drove past me, there were two little girls hanging out of there window, while their dad drove. They were all screaming GO MILITIA! The dad yelled, “good luck this weekend. we will be there!” That brought the biggest smile to my face and knowing that there are little girls out there who look up to us definitely motivates me to work even harder.
What is something you’d like see happen that would make you feel more supported?
There are several things that need to happen to get this sport on the map but there are unfortunately only a small group of people, with limited resources trying to get it there. As we talked about earlier, to really call this a professional sport, you need to pay the players. To do this takes a ton of sponsors, many more than the teams have now. However sponsors want exposure and to get that, the sport needs to be televised. To be televised, the sport needs to be appealing to the masses (I know the non-ignorant, true lovers of football will most definitely be entertained by the skill of the players and intensity of the games despite the fact that we play with our CLOTHES ON). I will however say that it is obvious that some games are more entertaining to watch than others. There are over 50 teams in the league, and most of those teams would not be able to have a competitive game with the Militia. I think to really make a difference in the sport, the top teams will need to play each other on a regular basis and those games will need to marketed to the media. The other teams should be placed into a developmental league, just like what is currently done for men’s pro basketball and baseball. So in summary…create a league with just the big dogs, put those games on TV, recruit sponsors, and PAY THE PLAYERS!Just this week you received your Masters Degree from Northeastern University. From the photo of the diploma I saw on Facebook, it looks like your degree is in Exploratory Affairs for Drags, Violencia and Medieval Oysters. What exactly do you plan on doing with this degree?
Ha! I received an MS in Regulatory Affairs for Drugs, Biologics, and Medical Devices. I actually currently work as a Manager of Regulatory Affairs for Novartis Pharmaceutical Corporation (the second largest pharmaceutical company in the world). As a regulatory affairs manager, I represent my company when we interact with global health authorities and I also work with our internal project teams to ensure that drugs that we develop are both safe and effective.
Thanks, Tiamfork! Can’t wait to see what you do next.