Here are some facts about Alison Fischer. She is nearly 46 years old. She stands about 5-foot-2 and weighs about 120 lbs. – except when she is dressed in her football helmet and full pads to play defensive back. Oh, and if you’re a receiver trying to catch a pass in her corner, she’ll put a hit on you.
Fischer, who recently moved from Reston to Oak Hill, is a captain and the oldest member of the DC Divas , a tackle football team for women. The Divas, founded 10 years ago, are fully organized and play in the Women’s Football Alliance, a national league, with 50 teams.
The Divas have a world championship, seven Eastern Division titles, and about three times as many wins as losses. Fischer has been with the team the entire time.
Fischer, a civil engineer, says she comes from a “football family” – her father played in college – and has always loved the sport. But for most of her life, she didn’t anticipate doing more than playing with friends in a flag football league. Then, when she was 35, she heard some interesting news.
“We heard there was a tackle league being started,” she says. The first team in the area was in Baltimore, which she and her friends deemed a bit far to drive to regularly for practices. But then came an announcement of a team in D.C. “So we tried out for that.”
They made it, and soon found out what a huge learning curve there is to tackle football.
For Fischer, as a defensive end, “there’s a technique to tackling. I had to learn step by step.”
The transition to tackling was only part of it, too. The game is completely different, she says, when you’re wearing a full uniform.
“It’s a lot harder to get your arms up,” she says. “And you can’t see as well.”
The WFA is a spring-summer league. It is currently in mid-season, and the regular season wraps up in June, with playoffs to follow. The game is basically the same as the men’s game, with a few minor rule changes and a smaller ball to accommodate the fact that most women have smaller hands than men.
Fischer, as a true veteran of the Divas, has mentored many young players, helping them to learn the same lessons she did. For all of them, no matter their ages, it’s a true labor of love. WFA players do not get paid, and in fact, they must pay to play. But their fees and ticket sales could not cover all the expenses it takes for the team to operate.
“We’re really fortunate that we have a good owner,” Fischer says.
But its time, she says, for her to switch her relationship with the team from player to fan.
“This is it, my last season,” she says. “You just don’t recover like you used to.”