If Carrie Walters wanted to play football growing up, she had to do so with the boys. And so she did.
Since she was 6, she was in the huddle with boys. She made tackles and got knocked down like the rest of them. She played in Las Vegas up until high school, when she was not allowed on the boys team.
With the introduction of an all-girls tackle football league in the valley, that should not happen again for girls in third through 12th grade.
The Western Athletic Sports Unified Program, or WASUP, is starting what it says is the first tackle football league for girls in the country.
The valleywide league will consist of 12 teams, with each team containing elementary, middle and high school players.
Registration is $160 and includes uniforms and equipment rental.
Some teams have begun practicing, and all teams are still accepting girls. Games are expected to begin in October and run through November.
Teams include: Centennial Hills Red Hawks, Aliante Amazons, Northeast Energy, West Vegas Black Widows, North Vegas Firebirds, North Summerlin Divas, South Summerlin Dark Angels, Henderson Tiger Cats, South Vegas Liberty Belles, Southwest Zydeco, East Vegas Militia and Spring Valley Jynx.
Girls will be placed on a team based on their ZIP code. Each team is sponsored by national women's professional tackle football teams and takes the sponsoring team's nickname. The Philadelphia Liberty Belles, for example, sponsor the South Vegas Liberty Belles.
Walters is a wide receiver for the Las Vegas Showgirlz, the local professional women's tackle football team, and a spokeswoman for the girls tackle league.
She also is a physical therapist and rehabilitation director at a local nursing facility.
Football is a big part of her life, she says.
"I love the camaraderie," she said. "I love the way the pads sound when you make a solid hit. I love it for the same reasons guys like it."
Many Showgirlz players will act as head coaches and assistants in the league. Dion Lee, owner of the Showgirlz, said the idea for this league has been in the works for three to four years. WASUP has had girls flag football leagues for nearly a decade.
WASUP President Bill Cheverino said he has met with officials from the National Football League who encourage girls tackle football. Currently, there are scattered teams throughout the country but no league, Cheverino said.
"I don't really care what our personal feelings are about a girl playing football," he said. "The key is (girls) want to play tackle, but they're not getting the opportunity to play in the structure that is set up right now."
Lee's 14-year-old daughter, Imani, is a student at Arbor View High School and plans to play in the Clark County School District's inaugural flag football season for girls in the winter. She also plans to play in the WASUP tackle league.
Lee acknowledged there are safety concerns that accompany football, but he believes the proper equipment will make the girls as safe as possible.
"As a parent of a daughter who plays flag football, I'm aware," Lee said. "My daughter can get hurt in tennis just as easy as you can in football. I actually prefer my daughter to play tackle rather than flag football because there's equipment."
Games will consist of two 20-minute halves and will be an eight-on-eight format.
Walters, who said she grew up not fitting in, said this could be an athletic outlet for those types of girls.
"Some girls aren't coordinated with a bat and ball," she said. "Some don't like to run around a soccer field. Some are not tall enough for basketball. (Football) offers a more dynamic body type a chance to play a sport."
To register, call league organizer Lee at 764-8878 or visit wasupsports.com for more information.
Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at firstname.lastname@example.org or 224-5524.