On the gridiron with the Austin Outlaws, one of America's longest-running women's football teams
Jason Barlow says it's not uncommon for people to make assumptions about the women's football team he coaches.
"They automatically think lingerie or they'll think flag, and not like this is semi-professional, NFL-type football," he said.
Barlow is the head coach of the Austin Outlaws. Established in 2001, the program is one of the longest-running, full-contact women's football teams in America.
The team is part of the Division II American Conference of the Women's Football Alliance (WFA).
The Outlaws are hoping to secure their first home win of the season this Saturday against division rival Oklahoma City Lady Force.
Unlike NFL players, though, the women of the Austin Outlaws do not receive a salary.
In fact, many players in the WFA have to pay to play.
This creates an accessibility issue, said Lily Messina, who serves as the organization's general manager as well as a coach and backup lineman.
"I hate that somebody has to have a decent job and no kids in order to be able to play football," she said. "Let's say your best player is a running back. She's got three kids, she works two jobs, but you're going to hassle her for $800 to play on your team when she can barely afford her own bills?"
Instead of charging players hundreds of dollars to play each season, Messina said the Outlaws opt to fundraise money. She said players are also encouraged to bring their children to practices and games.
"This makes it a lot easier for the parents," Barlow said. "They just come down here and do their job, do stuff on the field, not have to worry about getting a babysitter for their kids."
If you go to any Outlaws practice or game, you will likely see Barlow's 7-year-old daughter, Talia, on the sidelines. Talia's mom, Rebecca Barlow, plays center for the team.
"When we watch professional teams, she asks, 'Where's all the girls at?'" Rebecca Barlow said. "She doesn't realize that it's a men's sport. All she's ever known is women playing football. And I think that's really, really special."
Her teammate Monica Logan also regularly brings her young daughter to practices and games.
"They see a group of us getting together, becoming sisters on and off the field and doing everything that the outside world told us that we can't," Logan said. "Now, we're opening the door for them to be able to go out there and say, 'I can do this because my moms are out here doing it.'"
To the Outlaws, bonds like these are important in life and on the field. They’re part of what drives the team’s success.
"In middle school, I was just told that I wasn't allowed to play, that I was weird for wanting to play," Rebecca Barlow said. "To find this community of incredibly strong women who work 9 to 5 every day and find the energy to still come to practice and to still come to these games and give everything that they have and hurt themselves just for the love of the game, it's an amazing, beautiful, wonderful thing to be a part of.”
The goal this year, Logan said, is for the team to make it to Canton, Ohio, this summer for the WFA National Championship.
But for now, she’s focused on Saturday’s home game.
"We've spent many years being the underdogs, and we finally have traction. We're finally being noticed in the league, and we have a lot of things that we need to prove," Logan said. "So, this is the game. I truly believe that if we win this game, we can take this thing all the way for the city of Austin, and we can be DII champions."
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at House Park Stadium in Austin.