ALICIA JEFFORDS, 35
Maine Mayhem football
When most people go through a tough breakup, they turn to a night on the town, or a bar of chocolate, or the latest Adele. When Alicia Jeffords was going through a breakup in 2004, she tried football. It was instant love.
“It was a great outlet for me,” she says, “a great way to channel all of that negative energy and do something positive with it.”
Not everyone in her family agreed.
“My father wanted me to trade my cleats for ballet slippers,” she says.
Several years later, Jeffords is still playing football, and her father is one of her biggest supporters.
For Jeffords, football has become less of a hobby and more of a lifestyle. She has played the game consistently since 2004, first as a player for Maine Freeze, then for the Maine Rebels when the Freeze dissolved. She has been selected for a national all-star team five years in a row. She coaches at Gorham Middle School, and recently led the team to win the Gold Bowl.
Now, Jeffords is tackling a different challenge as president of Maine Mayhem, Maine’s newest women’s football team. Mayhem is the response by Jeffords and a few of her teammates to the loss of their former team, the Rebels, which was sold this year.
“We had been discussing the possibility of starting a board-run team,” Jeffords says, “as soon as we heard (about the Rebels being sold), we jumped on the opportunity.”
Jeffords will continue to play for the Mayhem in addition to being president. She is a versatile player, capable of covering almost any position on the field. She started as a receiver, but through the years has played on both the defensive and offensive line. Currently, she plays as a running back and a linebacker.
Between being a mother to three teenagers and working part time for Gorham schools, Jeffords says it’s a challenge to fit it all in.
“It’s not a lucrative sport,” she says. “The players do it for the passion. When we suit up, we go on the field for battle. It’s such a rush – there’s no other sport that can compare.”
Entering the 2016 season, Jeffords is focusing on recruiting players, and raising awareness of the team.
“Many women still don’t know this opportunity exists in Maine,” she says, “so the biggest thing is letting people know we’re here.”
Still, Jeffords recognizes other barriers to women participating in football. Many of the women they recruit did not grow up with opportunities to play, and they may be hesitant to learn a new sport.
A whole other challenge is the public perception. Some people think the sport is too violent for women. Others misconstrue things completely.
“People often assume that I play lingerie football (where women play wearing bras and underwear),”Jeffords says. “It’s too bad that has to be the perception of women’s football.”
When she first started coaching at Gorham, she worried people wouldn’t take her seriously. Yet “as soon as I start talking football, people realize that I know what I’m talking about,” Jeffords says.
She is happy to see growing opportunity for girls to play football, and is proud that her own middle school team is co-ed. She thinks women only need the chance to prove they can do the same things as men, and then they will.
“I love breaking boundaries in the sport,” says Jeffords, who considers herself a pioneer as a coach and a player. “I am showing girls they can be whatever. And I love doing that.”
For those interested, the next mini camp is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 20, at the Portland Sports Center. The Mayhem will begin pre-season practices in January and the first game is scheduled for April 9 2016. For more information about Maine Mayhem, visit their Facebook page or www.mainemayhemfootball.com.