SOUTHERN MAINE – The NFL season may be over, but the state’s only full contact women’s football team is gearing up for its third year of competition.
The Maine Mayhem is a nonprofit organization and members of the national Women’s Football Alliance. The team, which includes more than 40 players, will face competitors along the East Coast April through July.
Twins Chloe and Taylor Brzycki, 27, of Old Orchard Beach, are new to the team this year, along with older sister Emily Brzycki of Poland.
“My first thought was this was going to be a recreational league and not very intense. My second thought was that it wasn’t going to be competitive,” said Chloe, who is 14 minutes older than her fraternal twin and roommate.
She was wrong.
“I’m very athletic but the toll it takes on your body is like nothing I’ve experienced before,” said her twin, Taylor, a teller and customer experience representative at Bangor Savings Bank in downtown Biddeford.
Playing on the team is also a substantial commitment. Members of the team do conditioning once a week at Train Maine Fitness & Performance in Westbrook. They also practice for several hours every Saturday morning at Turf’s, also in Westbrook.
“When you go to your first tryout or practice you realize it’s a huge commitment,” Taylor said. “It’s your life.”
The Brzyckis, who moved to Maine from Virginia five years ago, both played high school sports and Chloe played softball in college.
“I’ve looked forward to being part of a team again and being in a competitive atmosphere,” said Chloe, who is a clinical supervisor at a traumatic brain injury clinic in Standish.
“Personally, I’ve craved the structure of team sports,” Taylor added.
Players need to raise about $600 each to play and pay for equipment and they have to have their own transportation to games. Last year the team competed in games as far as Ohio and Canada. Jerseys for each player were sold in an effort to raise money and players can also accept corporate sponsorships.
What’s the most common question the sisters are asked when people find out they play women’s football?
“The lingerie league,” Taylor said. “It’s the first thing they think of.”
Players on the Mayhem are in dressed in full pads and wear helmets. Those with long hair – like Chloe and Taylor – tuck their hair into their jerseys during play.
“It’s fair game to pull hair,” Taylor said, adding that the same rule applies to the NFL.
Mayhem coaching staff includes four assistants, an offensive coordinator, offensive line coach and head coach, Brian Oja, who has 20 years of coaching experience, including at Bonny Eagle Middle and High schools
“It’s the best when we’re practicing at Turf’s and take our helmets off for a break. The looks you get from parents and kids (in recreational leagues) is funny,” Chloe said. “They don’t realize it’s women on the field.”
The lingerie league aside, the sisters said their male friends have embraced their new found sport.
“They’re all for it,” Taylor said.
“Our guy friends offer to
Both are New England Patriots fans and Taylor, in particular, said she was familiar with the rules of football, but said it’s different when you’re a player.
“When you’re a kid sometimes you hear football players referred to as dumb or that if you’re dumb, you play football, but it’s not true,” Taylor said. “There’s so much learning that goes on. I have a better respect for people who play the game.”
“You’re in a huddle for five seconds and when that call is given, you have to instantly know what to do and how to do it,” she added. “If you make a mistake, the team suffers. It’s like a machine. If one part of the machine isn’t working, the whole thing shuts down.”
The Brzyckis credit returning players and coaches with helping them learn.
“They take time out of their schedules before training to go over plays,” Chloe added. “There’s so much studying involved.”
Since team members have to raise money to participate, they hold public fundraisers, including a recent comedy night. Members are pre-selling tickets for Maine Mayhem’s night at a March 1 Red Claw’s game in Portland where a portion of proceeds will go to the Mayhem.
“We also hope it brings in new fans,” Taylor said.
While players on the Mayhem need to be 18 or older, the team mentors school-aged girls who play football with the Girls of Fall program.
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman gave Super Bowl LIII tickets to a New Hampshire seventh grader who was bullied for being a girl on a boy’s football team. What wasn’t widely publicized is that Dejah Rondeau is a member of the Girls of Fall program in her state.
“If you think about it, Julian Edelman was told he was too short and not built the way he was supposed to be,” Taylor said. “Whether you’re male or female, there’s always going to be someone telling you, ‘You can’t do it.’ Break that barrier.”
The Maine Mayhem and Girls of Fall are changing the perception of girls playing on boys teams, Chloe said.
“They’re starting at the peewee level and by the time they hit high school, they’ve adapted to take a hit are moving the way a football player should move.”
The Brzycki sisters believe that women can absolutely play football, including professionally. College player Toni Harris of the East Los Angeles College Huskies has her sights set on becoming the first female player in the NFL.
“You never know what a body is capable of – physically and mentally,” Chloe said, adding that in some ways, however, women may be at a physical deficit.
“Testosterone builds muscle,” she said. “Women, though, can build up certain parts of their bodies to be stronger, more agile. Women are more flexible – we’re made to bear children and to be limber. We’re able to contort our bodies faster than a male because the more muscle mass you have, the less likely you are to be flexible.”
In the end, though, Chloe said a person can train their body to do anything if they start early enough.
The sisters encourage football fans to catch a Mayhem game, held at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland or Deering Oaks.
“How many football games do you get to watch in spring?” Taylor said. “I could watch it all year round.”
“I think once you see a game, you won’t question why you’d want to watch women play football,” Chloe added. “The players bring an intensity that’s hard to match.”
Find more information on the Maine Mayhem and their 2019 schedule at www.mainemayhemfootball.com.
To learn more about the state’s only full contact women’s football team, visit www.mainemayhemfootball.com or find Maine Mayhem Women’s Football on Facebook.