Gay Bowl XI in Houston had several firsts. The Toronto Mounties made the tournament “international;” The final day of competition was canceled due to a rare, freak storm. But the source of deepest pride for the members of the Denver Summit 2 was their claim to fame: They were the first team to win a game in the tournament with a female quarterback, beating the Philadelphia Revolution in round-robin play.
It wasn’t any surprise to Salina Sychla. She’s been playing quarterback since her junior high school days in Eagle Point, Oregon. Playing tackle football, she felt some of the guys would take cheap shots at her during the game: Losing to a female QB, as some of them did, often didn’t go over well.
“Football’s always been a man’s game,” she says. “To have women come in and compete with them is possibly humbling and possibly a shock.”
When she hit ninth grade, her high school was opposed to having a woman on the football team, let alone play quarterback. At the time it wasn’t a fight she wanted to have, so she stopped playing football. It was years later in college when she found intramural flag football at the College of the Siskiyous, and then the University of Wyoming.
Now she’s a star in the Denver Gay & Lesbian Flag Football League, having already led her team to a league championship.
The biggest advantage of being a female quarterback seems to be the lack of respect her competition shows for her ability. Defensive backs will play shallow, assuming she can’t throw very far.
“I get a couple deep ones off and they learn,” Sychla says.
That was the case at Gay Bowl XI, as teams who weren’t aware of her skills lined up against her. Sychla says she had an “absolute blast” at the tournament. “Every team was very nice and had a lot of very nice things to say.”
Still, Sychla laments the lack of women in the tournament. Denver brought a couple female players; Molly Lenore is a longtime fixture on the New York Warriors roster. But the number of different women who’ve played in the Gay Bowl in its 11 years of existence number only around a dozen.
“There are a lot of women who could compete, and it would be interesting to see more of them get involved in future years,” Sychla says.
Denver hosts the Gay Bowl next year and has mandated the first-ever women’s division for the event. Sychla hasn’t decided whether she’ll play in the women’s division or the men’s division. If she opts for the latter, she’ll be aiming for the quarterback position of Denver’s first team, a position she says she can win.
You can find Sychla on Facebook.