NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Latoya Harvey-Smith is a married mother of two who spends most of her days at KIPP Leadership School as a physical education coach.
But when it’s time to unwind, Harvey-Smith goes from the classroom to the gridiron.
“It’s been amazing,” Harvey-Smith explained. “You never know what your body is capable of until you actually get in there and do it.”
Harvey-Smith plays defensive back for the New Orleans Hippies, a women’s tackle football team in its first year of existence. She is one of the nearly forty women who answered the call to join the Hippies. All had different reasons for doing so.
“Originally, I had my baby six weeks when I started playing," Harvey-Smith explained. "I just wanted to lose some weight at first, and I was always a good athlete. I played sports all throughout high school, every sport you can name except for football and so I figured, why not? We’ll give it a try.”
“I was a tomboy growing up playing with my brothers and his friends," said Kamisha Redmond, who plays defense as well. "They outside playing football; they telling me I can’t play. Why? Everybody keep running me off. I don’t want to go jump rope. So, when this came about, I was like ‘okay, I’m in.’”
Curtis Green is the team owner and sees a growing market for females in football.
“They say I was crazy,” Green said. “ Texas had a lot of teams. I was relocated there after Katrina. We came back here and said let’s start a women’s football team. Let’s be competitive. They say if you build it they will come.”
That they did.
Ranging in ages from late teens to early fifties, these ladies showed up with a toughness and passion for the game, some against the advice of their own family members.
“My auntie said 'you’re 35 years old. You wait all the way until now to you not worried about getting broken up?" Redmond joked. "How are you going to take care of your family?”
Not only are they risking injuries, they’re doing so for the love of the sport, not a paycheck. Mainly because those paychecks do not exist, at least right now.
“I think in the next two-three years, we’re going to be right up there, getting the same press, the pay for these ladies,” Green said. “We have a lot of single mothers with kids, responsibilities, a lot of professionals on the team.”
Still for many, like Harvey-Smith, it’s worth it. They get to have fun playing a game and smash stereotypes of women along the way.
“There’s a few naysayers. There’s still some people who think women should play football, women don’t belong on the field. But to those people I just tell them come out and watch us to see what we do. We’re tough.”
And she says she has no intentions of stopping anytime soon.
“I’m going to go until I can’t anymore," Harvey-Smith said. "I plan on being a 50-60 year old women still trying.”
The Hippies play their home games at Moss Bertolino Stadium in Kenner. Like most teams in their first year, there have been some challenges.. They remain winless, but they believe they have grown a fan base that will hopefully lead to success in year two and beyond..