Monday, December 29, 2008

5 Questions With "Women's Football Talk" Host Barbara Coletta

I was excited and honored when Women's Football Talk host Bj Coletta asked me to be a guest on their radio show a few weeks ago. Of course, I had to ask her to be my guest for five questions. She's another inspiring athlete that I am fortunate to have crossed paths with. I'll let her take it from here:

I was born Barbara Jean Coletta. My family calls me Barbie and my friends call me Barb. I started being called Bj on the softball field. I was born and raised just outside of Chicago and moved to the Sacramento area just before I started my senior year in high school. I graduated at 17 and moved back to Illinois for a year after finishing a semester of college before I joined the Army at 19. I was a helicopter mechanic. I was stationed in El Paso, Texas and Stuttgart, Germany. When I got out of the Army I moved back to Germany and lived there for 13 months just six miles from the East German border. I volunteered 40 hours a week on the military base in a civilian office until I was able to secure work at the Burger King on base. In 1987 I left and went to a Aeronautical school in Oklahoma and got my Associate in Applied Science degree in Quality Control and diploma in Non Destructive Testing. That's where I acquired the skills and have been a technician of some sort ever since. Today I work in the Aerospace industry where they make rockets that put things in space. My job though not so glamorous, I work in the environmental laboratory that tests water and soil for the projects that were tested. I'm a proud Mom of a 19 year old son who stands 6 foot 5 inches. He didn't get his height from me (smile). He starts college this semester.

1. How did your fondness for football begin? Did you play as a child? What are your earliest memories of the sport? Tell us about your professional career as well.

I grew up about 30 miles North West of Chicago. Football and snow always went together. It still does. I remember we played without rules, it was just fun. We played on the streets that were plowed pile high with snow. No out of bounds and the catches even on the tallest snowdrifts counted. I remember playing with the neighborhood boys. There was one time we played and I made what would have been a amazing catch, unfortunately the snow helped it so I told them it was no good. No one believed me, not even the boys we played against. They made me count where I caught it. Even now watching a game when it snows brings back those great memories as a kid.

I played for the Sacramento Sirens in 2006 and 2007. Starting football again at the age of 42 after being away from sports for so long was a big challenge for me. I was more of a "show me" player, I couldn't get the concept of calls in my head. My brain just couldn't formulate fast enough. I think it really had an effect on my confidence level as a player. 2006 was my better year. I played 3rd and 4th quarter DB as a corner as well as on Special Teams. I really enjoyed special teams because my purpose was to get to that ball carrier as fast as I could. Short and simple.

2006 was also a big moment for me when I made my first tackle (not a hard tackle), but the carrier lost four yards and I made my head coach ("Diamond" Lill Jarrell) proud.

2007 I played DB, Special Teams and Linebacker. At 130 lbs I didn't make for a scary linebacker, but the coaches said they wanted to make me more aggressive. I wound up fracturing my rib during practice and was out the first four games of the season and never really developed any technique or skill for the remainder of the season. I gave up football. It was no longer fun.

2. What sports did you play through your life as a child and through school other than football? Do you continue to play football or other sports today?

Growing up as a kid I played tether ball and softball. When I lived in Germany, I played on a softball league for the military. I also played on a softball league during 2005 and 2006.

Today I don't play any sports, though I played a few flag football games on a Sacramento league this year with my former teammates. I wound up breaking my finger in the first game but didn't know it that day. I benched myself for the rest of the season because as a chemist I need the use of my hand.

3. What inspired you and your colleagues to start the Women's Football Talk site and radio shows? How are you able to cover all of the leagues in women's football so thoroughly?

Women's Football Talk started with an idea that originated while I was maintaining a local website called SacTown News (during 2006 and 2007). The website's focus was to report on unconventional sports that were conventional to me. I mostly wrote about the Sacramento Sirens (women's professional football team part of the IWFL) and the National Golf League, a professional team golf league that was formed in 2005 that I had volunteered for since its beginning.

After the end of the 2006 Sacramento Sirens season, I thought why not talk about all the teams and all the leagues. I was interested in knowing what was going on with all the teams and the all the leagues and no one was reporting on any of them.

In the last week of November 2006 I purchased two domain names, and One I would designate for the BlogTalkRadio website using the call letters (WFB Talk) and the other I would use for the online blog.

The original on-the-air debut was scheduled for December 19, 2006. During the six hours up to the show debut I was extremely nervous and wound up canceling the show and rescheduled it on December 26, 2006. I talked myself out of that show as well, it was the day after Christmas after all.

My brother suggested that I get the aid of some friends to help out with the show. I asked two of my teammates, Megan and Beebe, if they would be interested. We decided that our new air day would be August 21, 2007. We decided to hold our first meeting to discuss the show at our end of year banquet of the Sacramento Sirens while we ate our meal. Megan had worn the t-shirt that I gave her with the WFB Talk logo on it. There were only two t-shirts in existence with the logo and the name of our website, and I owned neither of them. I had given the other to our future Director of Marketing, Nancy. Robin, another teammate of ours saw Megan's t-shirt and asked her about it. She was immediately drawn with our ideas, since she had a degree in communications and one day wanted to work with the NFL.

In the early beginnings we held meetings every week deciding what topics we would discuss. We made a list of things we thought our listeners would be interested in. After Meg moved to Texas we stopped holding our meetings. Now week after week we may find a particular subject matter we are interested in and just make a phone call. Our show is done on week by week basis so there are times when the show listing is not up until that day. Sometimes we even surprise ourselves who is going to be on the show (smile).

4. What is the most rewarding part of covering women's football for you? The most challenging?

The most rewarding part is getting the chance to meet the players, coaches, owners, volunteers, management staff, and fans either in person or by telephone. I am even in contact through text messaging thereafter. Getting their personal insight and getting to know them on a one on one level is a big high for me. I still am in contact with a lot of the people we have had on our show. I feel a special bond to them. I don't want to get too sidetracked where they don't think that I'm not still thinking about them. I want them to know that their story or connection has touched me and I do still have them in my thoughts, even if I haven't contacted them recently. We are just one. My dream would be to have more coverage for women's football by others following and using our show as one of their ideas behind it. It's not copying, its promoting! To be honest, I prefer behind the scenes and talking to the individual one on one. I get more heartfelt satisfaction that way.

I think the most challenge is reaching out to the players. They just want to play. The players are the start of the young girls future. If they don't work to push their own sport and to help promote it, it could be too late for some young girls dream. After 10 years, women's tackle football is still unknown to many. On average still only 400 fans fill the stands per game. Who is still not talking?

5. Who are your role models? On that same note, do you consider yourself a role model? Why or why not?

Growing up I think I always looked up to my brother and sister. Each one was unique and had different aspirations that helped round who I am. I have loving parents who always encouraged us through our growing years and even supported our decisions as adults, even at 19 when I joined the Army unknowing to them until after I signed on the dotted line. They still were in my cheering section.

I don't consider myself a role model, but as a parent my 19 year old son looks to me on decisions that I have made. I have been a single parent since my son was four. Last month my son even accused me of making him too honest. My son will be starting full time at a local community college in late January. He took a semester off and has played nothing but video games and drove me nuts. I'm lucky. A lot of kids can't wait to move out. My son wants to stay with his mom. I must be doing something right (smile).

I'm sure she is doing something right - you can see her son on the sidelines with her in the slideshow. He volunteered for the Sirens when she was a player and continues to do so. Be sure to visit the Women's Football Talk site and from the top you can find links to the radio shows, video, and information for the world of women's football.


Lindsay said...

I've played a lot of football and rugby in the snow as well. One thing is it doesn't hurt as much to be tackled in the snow! Plus you're usually wearing lots of clothes to keep warm so there's extra padding when you wipe out.

That's so great that Barb's son is a volunteer for the Sirens. I'd say she is a pretty good role model for her son and many others!

Apryl DeLancey said...

I agree - some of the best role models don't even realize how good they are!