What’s a 49-year-old pediatrician doing playing football in a league where women hit and tackle just like the men? She’s having the time of her life and becoming an eight-time All-American.
Dr. Mia Ben earned top honors as a defensive end for the Acadiana Zydeco, a team in the Women’s Football Alliance. Since 2009, the WFA has featured women playing full contact, 11-on-11 football in teams across the country.
Acadiana Zydeco joined the league in 2010 and emerged as national champions last year with just 14 players. But the Zydeco, which plays home games at Teurlings Catholic, followed with a winless season, which ended June 3.
But the 0-8 record didn’t stop Ben from repeating as an All-American with 27.5 tackles. The lack of wins didn’t dampen her enthusiasm for football either.
“I just love it,” said Ben, a practicing pediatrician in Opelousas since 2000. “I have a passion for it.
“I always liked football. I didn’t know the little ins and outs of the game. I really wanted to learn that. That was my goal.
“I tell the girls that never played before, when you get that first hit, then everything is OK,” added Ben, a native of Napoleonville. “Once you get your first hit, you know what you’re dealing with.”
Ben’s football career started with challenging words from her son, Trevor. Ben followed Trevor’s high school career at Acadiana Prep and bombarded him with questions after every game.
But one day, Trevor abruptly cut off the questions.
“He said ‘Mom, I can’t explain all that,’” said Ben. “’The only way you’re going to learn if you’re actually playing, or you’re coaching — and you know that’s not going to happen.’”
“That’s not going to happen” reverberated in Ben’s mind when she discovered a women’s football team in Baton Rouge. With Trevor by her side, Ben successfully tried out for the Baton Rouge Wildcats.
After playing three years in Baton Rouge, Ben built on growing local interest in the women’s football. The Acadiana Zydeco was born.
After early struggles, the Zydeco were in the playoffs after their fourth season. Two seasons later, they were division champs and followed with a national title in the seventh year.
Ben has had her share of critics. But she keeps on playing.
“Some people say this is something women shouldn’t do. We get some young ladies that’ll say, ‘I want to try.’ Then they’ll hear someone say, ‘You shouldn’t be doing that’ or ‘You’re going to get hurt.’
“But if they’re training appropriately, you won’t get hurt. You’re going to learn the game. You’re going to meet a lot of people. I’ve met so many nice people during this run.”
Ben is hoping to celebrate her 50th birthday in a helmet and shoulder pads. But after that milestone, she’ll be ready to hang up the cleats.
But “not going to happen” will still ring in her ears.
“I’ve learned a lot about the game. I really love it when I’m at the Saints games, LSU, Southern or UL. I’m calling plays and saying what’s happening.
“Men look around like, ‘How does she know that?’ Or if I’m listening to some men talk, they are just clueless.
“I appreciate football.”