This league filled a need

Rise and Shine Its Game Time, November/December Cape Cod Life | capecodlife.com

The Dennis Women’s Flag Football League was founded in 2003, when members of the Dennis Women’s Softball League felt there was a void in their weekend schedules during the offseason. “I like something I can look forward to each week that’s not work-related,” says Bednark, who works as a banker by day. “Flag football allows me to tune out the real world for a while and just have fun.”

The league began play with two teams, comprised primarily of softball players looking to keep active and enjoy their friends’ company on fall Sundays, and has now grown to five teams. The teams play seven-on-seven games, with most players rotating positions while playing both offense and defense. In total, about 60 women participate.

Other than Team Chaos, which is underwritten by Provincetown businesswoman Carol MacDonald, the other teams in the league are named after their sponsors: Buncey’s, Soprano’s Ristorante of Mashpee, Bush Gardens of Osterville, and disc jockey Rich Corso’s Secret Productionz of Buzzards Bay.

Whether it’s a firecracker running back just out of college or longtime Chaos quarterback Marsha Sirota, who’s still slinging the pigskin in retirement, the league offers a level playing field to women of all ages and fitness levels. “We’re supportive of all players,” says Bednark. “We capitalize on what your strengths are and we find a role for everyone.”

Everyone includes women from all walks of life. Bartenders, postal workers, waitresses, nurses, bankers, social workers, teachers, and desk jockeys of all stripes are among the players on the gridiron regularly in the DWFFL.

“A lot of us play to stay active, to stay social,” says Jen Ciliberto, a mother of two boys and a physical education teacher in the Barnstable Public Schools. “It’s fun to make new friends and connect with people from different backgrounds.”

For some participants, the social component of league play might be the most appealing part of the DWFFL. “I would be lying if I said we didn’t frequent a local pub after our games,” admits Handrahan. More often than not, that local public house is nearby Buncey’s, where the players discuss the day’s games, an upcoming Patriots’ contest, work, family, or all of the above.

“I just love getting up on Sunday mornings and playing football with my friends, getting some exercise, and cheering for my teammates,” adds Ciliberto, one of the league’s founders who plays for team Secret Productionz. “I’ve played with my sisters over the years, and I’ve reconnected with old high school friends.”

Like the league’s many family connections, a lot of on-field friendships extend beyond the sidelines. “Some of these women have become my best friends,” says Sullivan, who adds that most league members will quickly rally to a fellow player in need.

When the Cilibertos’ home was destroyed in a fire in 2015, many players prepared gift baskets full of necessities for the family. “The entire league pulled together and bought our family items and gift certificates for things we’d need when our house was rebuilt,” says Ciliberto. “They also did a clothing drive so that my children and my husband and I had things to wear, and then another player held a fundraiser for us. Our family has adjusted very well since we moved into our new home, and it was an easy transition thanks to my football sisters.”