Women’s football ponders the future that lies ahead

You’ve read the stories and you’ve seen the pictures, but how far has women’s football really grown in the Rio GrandeValley?

The answer is simple – exponentially.

When the Valley Vixens came into existence in 2014, the team might not have been the first women’s football team to exist in the RGV, but they did lay the foundation for what’s here today. In fact, a large percentage of teams in the RGV have players that at one time or another benefited from the Vixens.

And while the Valley Vixens may no longer be, the footprint they left behind helped form the four teams in the Harlingen area: the RGV Vixens, the Harlingen Honeys, the Weslaco Jaguars and the Clovers, who play in San Benito.

“I think it’s going to be huge,” said Clovers owner Neka Gonzalez about the future of the sport. “Several semi-pro teams have women going into the bigger leagues and there will be more teams in just our league next year. Women from little towns are learning about the game and pushing to succeed in it.

“I see the teams staying around for years to come and I’d love to see my daughter play this amazing game.”

Harlingen Honeys owner Lorenzo Hernandez agrees.

“I think in the five years women’s football is going to continue to expanded, for instance in Brownsville and the Mid-Valley area,” said Hernandez. “I also think the fan base is also going to continue to grow and get the recognition they deserve.

“We’ve already seen a positive growth in fans. When we started out our first year, we joined the Christmas parade to hand out flyers for our upcoming season and some people would crumble up the flyers and throw them back at us. So we’ve come a long way from that point.”

For other owners like the Weslaco Jaguars’ Stephanie Garcia, the game provided her an opportunity to extend the proverbial olive branch to other women that were in the same situation as her. Football has helped her reconnect with her family.

“Starting my own team was the best decision I’ve done in my life,” said the 34-year-old Garcia. “I came from a life full of wrong choices, and coming home and playing football while owning my own team is amazing.

“I actually started the process mid-season while playing with the Vixens. I wanted a different environment for myself, my daughter and other women like me who love playing the sport and want to be part of something bigger.”

While the league has seen a positive trend in popularity, it hasn’t come without its share of obstacles. For instance, the Weslaco Jaguars have had a tough time finding a place to play in their home town and have resorted to playing their home games in Harlingen. In total, the Jaguars have had to play four games at Victor Park Field this year.

However, optimism for the future of the sport is shared by owners, players and fans alike.

“In just the past year, the league has grown so much and I feel that it is going to continue grow said,” RGV Vixens owner Lori Ramirez. “As long as we keep putting the word out there and keep representing the teams in a positive way, I feel like the league is going to continue to grow even more.”