Powderpuff (sports)

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For other uses, see powder puff (disambiguation).
Junior and senior girls face off in a high school powderpuff flag football game

In the United States and Canada, powderpuff football games are flag football or touch football games between girls from junior and senior classes or cross-town school rivals. Funds from the ticket and concession sales for the game typically go to charity, the senior class, or to a dance. The games are an annual tradition at many high schools and universities

The term originates from the powder puff, the soft material used for the application of cosmetic face powder.

Many schools create T-shirts for the games. The games usually occur before homecoming.

History[edit]

It is not clear when the first powderpuff football game was played, although there is photographic evidence of it being played as early as 1931 at Western State College of Colorado (now Western State Colorado University) in Gunnison, Colorado. [1]

One of the first well-documented powderpuff football games was played on October 20, 1945, at Eastern State Teachers College, in Madison, South Dakota.[2] Eastern had cancelled many campus activities for the duration of World War II. Among these were the annual homecoming celebration and intercollegiate sports, including football.[3] With the signing of the peace treaty with Japan on September 2, 1945, and the war’s official end, Homecoming was again on the schedule at Eastern. The traditional football game seemed out of the question, however, due to the wartime military draft. Just three men had enrolled for the fall term that year.[4]

"A bunch of us were sitting around after gym class and we thought, if we’re going to have Homecoming, we’ve got to have a football game," said Susie Lowry, who was a freshman at Eastern in 1945. "We decided we should have a game of our own."[5]

Robert C. Nelles, a freshman at Eastern that year, was on the Homecoming committee. The very idea of women playing football "was enough to curl your teeth", he wrote in an account of the game for the History of Lake County, but the committee nonetheless gave its approval for a game with all women players.[6]

There were two groups of Eastern coeds at the time: those who lived at their homes in Madison while attending classes on campus, and those from surrounding small towns who lived in the dorm. The 23 girls who wanted to play football divided into two teams, informally known as the Townies and Dormies.[7] On game day, the teams were designated Blue and Gold teams, respectively, which were Eastern’s school colors.[8]

Leota Van Ornum, Eastern's physical education teacher, served as coach for both teams. There was a high school on Eastern’s campus where students training to be teachers did their practice teaching. Robert Ormseth, who coached that school’s football team, served as her assistant.[9]

"A fairly large group of spectators showed great interest and enthusiasm during the game," according to The Eastern, the campus newspaper.[10] Friends and family and alumni were surely well represented, because the 23 players constituted almost half of Eastern’s enrollment of 53 that term. Robert Nelles and Paul Tommeraasen, two of the three male students, were pressed into service as game officials.[11]

Team Blonde at the 2011 Blondes vs. Brunettes powder puff football game in Washington, D.C.

“We tried to be almost real, with huddles and all that," said Lowry. "There was a lot of clowning around. A few of us fell down, just to make it look good, but it wasn’t really rough or anything."[12]

The neophyte gridders proved more adept at defense than offense, with each team holding the other scoreless until the game’s final minute. Doris Treloar of the Gold team finally broke through and scored a touchdown, which was immediately answered by Nancy Baughman of the Blue. Professor A.E. Swan, the librarian serving as the referee, considered that an opportune moment to end the contest on an amiable note.[13]

In its story about the game, the Madison Daily Leader dubbed the two teams "The Powderpuff and Rouge Elevens."[14] The name was suggested because the women chose to poke fun at themselves by staying on the field at halftime and putting on fresh makeup before the amused spectators.[15]

The first powderpuff football game of the modern era was held in 1972, in Wallingford, Connecticut. Judy Samaha, the athletic director of Mark T. Sheehan High School at the time, began this sport to incorporate more girls into athletic activities. She contacted Lyman Hall High School, Sheehan's rival, to set up a small but fierce game between the schools. Since then, powderpuff football has spread over the nation, from neighboring towns in Connecticut to schools in California, Texas, and Florida. The annual Samaha bowl game still takes place the Wednesday before Thanksgiving as the longest running powderpuff game in the country.

The tradition was adopted in Massachusetts at schools such as Pope John XXIII High School where underclass girls faced upperclass girls. The tradition still lives with schools like Mystic Valley Regional Charter School playing once a year the day before Thanksgiving Day, or St. David's School in Raleigh, NC, which attracts a stadium full of spectators for a high-energy game under the lights.

Blondes vs. brunettes charity football[edit]

Blondes vs. Brunettes is a powderpuff football game played in cities across the United States.[16] Proceeds from the event are donated to the Alzheimer's Association. The annual contests were started by Sara Allen Abbott whose father, Texas State Representative Joseph Hugh Allen, died of Alzheimer's disease in 2008. Looking for a way to raise funds for the Alzheimer's Association, Abbott organized a powderpuff football game in tribute to her father, a lifelong football fan.

In the fall of 2005, the first blonde vs. brunette powder puff football game was played at Hains Point in Washington, D.C. and raised $10,000. Subsequently, the game searched for a more suitable home and moved around the Washington, D.C area before settling in at George Washington University’s Mount Vernon Athletic Field in 2009. The game has received considerable publicity to include feature articles in The Washington Post and local TV stations and has raised over $500,000 in the national capital area alone. Blondes vs. Brunettes Charity Football is currently played in 16 cities in the United States. Abbott plans to continue the expansion to more cities and eventually establish a "Blondes vs. Brunettes Super Bowl."[17][18]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Barker, Brian. "Director of Marketing". Western State Colorado University. Retrieved February 4, 2014. 
  2. ^ Nelles, Robert (1995). History of Lake County. Lake County Historical Society. pp. 342–344. 
  3. ^ "Easter Day is Again Held". The Eastern. October 1945. 
  4. ^ Nelles, Robert (1995). History of Lake County. Madison, SD: Lake County Historical Society. pp. 342–344. 
  5. ^ Holtzmann, Roger (Nov–Dec 2011). "Lady Leatherheads". South Dakota Magazine 27 (4). 
  6. ^ Nelles, Robert (1995). History of Lake County. Madison, SD: Lake County Historical Society. pp. 342–344. 
  7. ^ Holtzmann, Roger (Nov–Dec 2011). "Lady Leatherheads". South Dakota Magazine 27 (4). 
  8. ^ "Easter Day is Again Held". The Eastern. October 1945. 
  9. ^ "Football Game Played by Debs". Madison Daily Leader. Oct 22, 1945. 
  10. ^ "Eastern Day is Again Held". The Eastern. October 1945. 
  11. ^ Nelles, Robert (1995). History of Lake County. Madison, SD: Lake County Historial Society. pp. 342–344. 
  12. ^ Holtzmann, Roger (Nov–Dec 2011). "Lady Leatherheads". South Dakota Magazine 27 (4). 
  13. ^ Holtzmann, Roger (Nov–Dec 2011). "Lady Leatherheads". South Dakota Magazine 27 (4). 
  14. ^ "Football Game Played by Debs". Madison Daily Leader. October 22, 1945. 
  15. ^ "Eastern Day Is Again Held". The Eastern. October 1945. 
  16. ^ Blondes vs. Brunettes Powderpuff Fundraiser
  17. ^ The Washington Post. "Athletes First, Stylistas Second". November 19, 2011, pg. A13
  18. ^ The Washington Post. "Hair's the Thing: Blondes vs. Brunettes is a Win-Win". Retrieved March 12, 2012.