Tackle football is usually synonymous with fall weather and rough guys. That's old school. Today, tackle football can mean daffodil season and kick-ass women like LaShawn Foust and other players on the D.C. Divas.
''I've always been athletic, always played sports,'' offers Foust. ''For Thanksgiving, Christmas or a snow day, the boys and girls in the neighborhood would get together in the street and play till a car came. I still wore my dresses. I was one of those little feminine girls who could climb a tree.''
All grown up, Foust stuck with the sports. Before the Divas, she played flag football in a women's league in Northern Virginia. She says news of a women's tackle team came as a relief. Finally, protective gear!
''It was so brutal with no pads. I play both now, and flag is just as hard as tackle. The only difference is in flag you don't have any pads, but you can still get laid out. Tackle allows me to be extremely physical.''
Though tackle football is the only sport she plays that includes equipment designed to protect her body, it's also the sport that's taken the greatest toll on it.
''I haven't had to have surgery, but I've been out of games for bad ankle sprains. I have chronic 'turf toe' ever since the big toe on my left foot was bent all the way back. There was inflammation that led to arthritis. There's so much pain. It's the worst pain you'd ever want to feel. I had to get a cortisone shot in my toe because I wanted to play so bad. I've also been kicked in the leg with a spiked cleat. That gave me a huge blood clot.''
To add insult to injuries, Foust lists what she's had to spend in terms of time and money to get these beatings. The uniform -- including helmet, shoulder pads, pants, jersey, socks and cleats -- cost her about $450. Sometimes players also need to help pay some of the travel expenses associated with away games, she says. And if time is money, the actual dollars are nearly insignificant.
''Once we get in full gear, around February or March, [practice] is usually three times per week. Practice is really strenuous,'' she says. ''If I could just show up on Saturday and play, I'd do it till I'm 45.''
The 33-year-old Foust says that while it can be hard to face the physicality, she can't turn her back on the sport.
''It's still so hard to walk away from it. You go home and soak and do whatever you can to play again.''
The pride she has in her tenacity and skills is matched by her deep emotions that have less to do with her own talent and more to do with the camaraderie found in the team effort.
''There were so many things that, as an individual player, I can pat myself on the back. But the greatest memory of it all is being on the field with some other veterans, in the rain sometimes, busting our tails.''
For more information about the D.C. Divas and the 2008 season, which starts on April 12 and ends July 26, visit www.dcdivas.com.