Hockey hero Cherie Hendrickson competes in 2014 Boston Marathon

Over the last year, Cherie Hendrickson has experienced a whirlwind of exciting yet highly emotional moments. From winning the 2013 Clarkson Cup with the Boston Blades, to gracing the field at Fenway Park, Hendrickson even travelled to Russia, where she competed for Lokomotiv hockey club with Blades teammate Kelley Steadman.

Throughout this time of remarkable personal milestones, Hendrickson also participated in the 2013 Boston Marathon. One of the darkest chapters in the history of the world renowned city, a malicious bombing tragically injured many of the participants. Having altered the lives of so many, Hendrickson, who was luckily not injured, was part of a proud group of citizens that became Boston Strong.

Such strength was clearly on display at the running of the Marathon in 2014. While most sports fans in New England identify Hendrickson as an ice hockey player, this accomplished athlete was part of a great social and athletic movement in which Boston’s residents showed their spirits could not be broken.

Photo credit: S. Dubuc, Obtained from Facebook

Photo credit: S. Dubuc, Obtained from Facebook

As one of an astounding 36,000 runners that participated, Hendrickson was not only helping to raise funds for DFMC, but she was running in remembrance of those affected by last year’s tragedy. While she experienced dehydration in the hills that comprise part of the Marathon’s course, crossing the finish line was never in doubt.

With the support of family and friends as a great source of inspiration and motivation, Hendrickson’s journey to the finish line was well worth it. Although the finish was somewhat slower than she had anticipated, the effort provided her with tremendous fulfillment. Like so many of her Blades teammates, Hendrickson’s efforts on and off the ice make her a role model for young female athletes in New England.

She would share her feelings of jubilation on social media on a day where everyone truly experienced victory, “Lucky to have been a part of the loudest, biggest and most passionate crowds I’ve seen at the marathon, lucky to call Boston home, honored to run for such an amazing organization, and lucky to have experienced the Boston Marathon again. We finished the race.”

Fairness needed in order for positive growth in female arena football

While the game of female football continues to experience growth, the game is also taking two different directions. One involves the global impact of the outdoor game, which has already seen two world championships being held. The other is the indoor game, which has become a source of controversy.

Over the autumn of 2013, the collapse of the Women’s Indoor Football League was a severe blow for the growth of the indoor game. The hopes and expectations of so many promising female athletes resulted in an outcome of disillusionment and discouragement.

Sadly, these circumstances are becoming evident in another indoor female football league. While this league has existed for over five years and once had its games broadcast on MTV2, a downward spiral has resulted in many of its established players and stars leaving over concerns of safety and most importantly, dignity.

An environment where players were not treated with respect became the norm. Concerns over favoritism and intimidation resulted in a mass walkout of players at the conclusion of the 2013 regular season.

A reliable source had disclosed frustrations over competing in a rival league where players were obligated to sell tickets to their games. Frustrations were compounded by the fact that players from this crumbling indoor league had to cover various costs for competition.

“Yes, we did have to sell our own tickets. If we did not make a certain quota, the Commissioner threatened to bench those players that did not sell a certain amount. It was pretty ridiculous since all of us had full time jobs. We had to pay just to play as well.”

Of note, the source also revealed how players had to endure verbal abuse from top leadership. “He also treated us like dirt. Calling us pieces of (excrement) and dumb asses and that we did not even truly know how to play football. If we did not make the flight (for a road game), I know you had to reimburse the league for the ticket.”

In reflecting on the experience, a logistical problem at a road game caused a high degree of frustration, contributing to a severe lack of confidence. “We also had issues with the league not having the equipment for us because of the game they had the night before. When we went to Baltimore, we did not have anything but the turf. No pads, no field pads, cameras, etc. It was ridiculous.

They said the truck from Minnesota got lost!! The worst part in my opinion was the way we were treated us and talked to. In Baltimore, that was when it really hit me that top leadership truly did not care about us and all he cared about was us selling tickets to make HIM money.”

Such frustrations composed a typical road trip. Compounding the frustration were multiple flights combined with a bus trip for a single road game. In some cases, players were forced to drive to road games in their own vehicles while bullying over having to pay for travel costs was another contentious issue.

Should such conditions existed in men’s sports, the media would have engaged in a campaign that would have forced changes or see the sport cease to exist. Another reliable source explained how the frustrations hampered the chance to play the game,

“Many of the women just wanted to play football. I wanted to play at the highest level while paving the way for the girls growing up and loving the sport like I did.”

Considering that these athletes were playing for no compensation, the chance to get the opportunity to compete at what should have been an elite level of play was in effect, ruined. The chance to be able to conduct their tasks in their area of expertise with little to no interference resulted in a situation that lacked dignity and professionalism.

“The biggest frustration was the lack of respect for the women as PLAYERS. I say this to anyone who asks… I do not care about the whole concept of exploiting my body, I genuinely did not care so much about that. If that is how we, as female football players were going to have to get recognition for future ladies of American sports, then so be it.

Yet, for exploiting my abilities, there was NO WAY! I am good at what I do and we were treated like we were all replaceable, because it was not really the talent level the league was interested in but how the players looked in the uniform.”

If one were to compare the situation in indoor female football to manufacturing, the players were the raw material and the games were the finished product. For a manufacturer to not look after its raw material and let it possibly be damaged or discarded without consideration is wasteful and inefficient.

Tragically, what has transpired is nothing short of wasted talent and lost opportunity. The players certainly deserved better treatment. If they would have been taken care of in a much more responsible manner (health insurance, better equipment), the opportunity for a better finished product was limitless. Instead, there is a carousel of rampant turnover, affecting the quality of the games and more importantly, making it difficult for fans to identify with any particular players as fans.

Emotionally, the wounds suffered in this league have obviously taken longer to heal than any physical ones. The source also elaborates on the tactics employed which conveyed feelings of worthlessness and resulted in poisoning morale.

“The league does not respect the women as players. They used and abused our bodies, our time, our money and our abilities in more ways than I can list. The players were the show, they were the ones pulling in the fans and being FORCED to do promotions when they did not have to be at practice. We were treated like slaves, treated like we were the ones who owed the league.”

Sadly, this was a situation where a partnership looking to create a solid foundation for indoor female football should have been part of its mandate. Considering that the vast majority of the athletes are college-educated, articulate women, along with the fact that many are also mothers, the poor treatment was nothing short of insulting. Even if the current power brokers in female indoor football manage to get their ducks in a row, too many bridges have been burned. While players and fans can only hope for better days ahead, they may come later rather than sooner.

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”