Arlanda Jets Women are one of the pioneer ladies tackle teams in Sweden. Every beginning is hard, especially for women's teams, however, these ladies have passed through every obstacle a women's team in American football could face!
We wanted to share their story, so therefore, we reached out to Coach Ville Korhonen who told us everything about the team.
BEGINNINGSTeam was founded in the summer of 2009, when a group of men's team players' girlfriends wanted to experience football during the summer break. We created a playful game for girls against the men.
After the game, there was a small group of girls who totally fell in love with football and wanted to start a women's team. At that time, the only women's team in Sweden were the Stockholm Mean Machines. We started to practice, booked a game against SMM, and the rest is history. There are still 2 players left from that game who are on the 2016 active roster.
Recruiting during 2009-2014 was difficult. No one knew of women's football, and there was a certain image of what players should be like. We could get just a few new players, very different kind of people. Some with athletic background, some without. Today, we have more girls and women with athletic background coming from other sports.
The game has evolved and it looks more professional. We have a serious off-season program in the gym and we also host camps. We work as a true football team, it has passed the level of it just being a hobby.
We'd recruit and look for equipment during the off-season. We had a great team manager who'd find funds out of nowhere to get us 8 helmets. Pads and some old helmets have been donated to us by the men's team players, and I have bought some from the players too. At that time, the club did not really take the women's team seriously, so it was HC, team manager and ladies who were making everything work, as well as paying for everything by ourselves.
These days, a lot of ladies do buy their own gear, as they tryout and notice we are a serious football team that's built to last. We still get some used equipment, so we have a buffer for new prospects to use when they tryout.
COMPETINGWe play in the Swedish women's division 1, currently the only series in Sweden for women. There are 7 teams competing in 2016.
From 2009 to 2011 there was only 1 game per year between us and SMM. In 2012, we started the women's league with 4 teams, and since then it's getting better each year. League has grown from 4 teams to 7. And there are 4-5 more clubs in Sweden that have started women's teams during 2016.
CHARACTER & UNITYWe are pretty simple and we maybe have a different approach in building a team. Commitment to the team and to each other is number one. Football skills come after that.
We are a team that first and foremost cares for each other - everyone is welcome, everyone is allowed to be themselves. We try to look after everyone. For example, we have players who drive out of their way, to pick up injured teammates to practices. When in first game this year our TE broke her leg, she has gotten “taxi-service” to practices, team made a small collection and bought her a present to cheer her up. When one of our veteran WRs went to Canada for 2 years, there was a big group of ladies at the airport to wish her a good bye. Our new Finnish WR has “given lessons on Finnish culture” to the whole team, some Finnish hiphop and Finnish language gives a lot of laughs and spices up the days.
We strongly believe that everyone is an individual within a group. As long as we all enjoy being a part of this, it can only get better.
Team is build with character, humor, caring and unity.
When we get someone in, we want to keep them and make them feel welcome. We recruit a lot and always try to stay positive and have fun. We have also believe that our strength has not been in numbers, but in our unity. We have never been a huge group. But our team has always been a united group that enjoys each others company and cares for each other. Character, caring, humor, unity!
We have always used pretty much every single media opportunity, event and/or job that comes by. In the beginning, no one knew or believed that women (can) play football. It was a huge job to sell the idea. And that all the players are not 140 kg weightlifters (laughs). Our ladies have been featured on the covers of magazines, there have been stories about the cultural background of our players, we have done commercials. We even did a recruiting trip toward Stockholm and back with local train, and went around the mall giving away leaflets. Of course, ladies were in full gear.
COMMUNITY & SUPPORTMärsta area, where we play, is a small area, part of Sigtuna that has about 45.000 people living there. Area has lot of sports teams, soccer, high level handball, ice hockey, floorball, etc. Our city is making a great effort to support sports. For example, we have our own American football field, but we have issues with bleachers, so city helped a lot and fixed that. Women had the first two home games at the main arena of the city.
We have been in schools to bring football closer to kids. Our city has organized all kinds of events, and whenever we get asked - we show up, especially to show our appreciation for everything city has done for us, It's also great for us to be able to bring the game closer to any young girl who'd like to try and play the sport.
We get a small crowd of people at our games, mostly relatives, old players, friends, etc. There is a small group of people who follow us. We do provide our “registered” supporters a text service from our games. They get live scoring from home and away games. Local newspapers have been good to us too. They do write about us. Main paper calls after every game and gets interviews and details of the game, and gives us great coverage in their newspaper. This season one cover page too, so far!
LOOKING BACKLooking back, we've learned that we have to work today as hard as we did yesterday. Extremely rewarding, but as women's football team, nothing comes cheap and easy.
You need good people to work as a group. We had team managers who did too much. Now we have a “leader council” to support and help TM on her tasks. Sponsor money is tight everywhere and almost in every sport (if not soccer or hockey) in Sweden. Therefore, we are working and building connections, and don’t get too stressed if any difficulty comes by.
We make mistakes, but we solve them together. We have open conversations in every direction after the season and we look in the mirror too. If we need to change something, we do it during the off-season.
Right now we have the strongest base ever in our team. We have great leaders among players and willingness to work together among the teammates.