A League of Her Own
For some women, life is fun and games
Whether they are rounding second, making a corner kick into the goal, or crashing the net, these ladies are anything but spectators when it comes to organized sports. For a few hours a week, laundry, errands, and fulltime jobs get tossed aside as cleats are laced up, helmets secured, and mitts broken in. Life is about fun and games.
“I cannot tell you how many friends I have made over the years,” says Alice Carboni who has been running bases and swinging bats in the Ridgefield women’s softball league for 35 years. “I am the last original player still playing,” she adds. “We started the league in 1978. I’m not ready to stop quite yet.”
Most of the women who comprise the teams would never know each other if not for the sport that binds them. “Everyone is so different. We have corporate executives, teachers, cops, nurses. Everybody just drops that, and they’re just ball players,” says Dawn Grabover, who has been part of the town softball team for 12 years. “From May to August, on Tuesdays and Fridays, this is our time. Our families understand because a good mom is a happy mom,” she says.
For Cathy Welsh, a local florist, joining a ladies soccer league was her entree into Ridgefield. “I moved here four and half years ago from Canada. When you don’t know anybody, joining a group makes you feel like you belong. That was my main reason for joining soccer,” says Welsh. The group of women meets at various fields in Ridgefield a few times a week for a casual game. “Most of us are moms. Our husbands go off to work, we put the kids on the bus, and we head to the field. We just divide up the teams equally and rotate positions,” she explains. Many of the players have been part of the league since it started in 2006. “It’s social, it’s exercise, it’s very flexible and it’s free,” adds Welsh.
The Hericanes, a hockey league for women, shares the same bond of camaraderie and desire for exercise and fun. Friday mornings, from October to May, between 15 and 20 women take to the ice. “I look forward to it all week, I wake up Friday morning excited because it’s hockey morning,” says Brooke Thaler. Many Hericane team members admit that it was their children who inspired them to gear up and grab a stick. “We were spending six hours a week at the rink every weekend, and we said, ‘They look like they’re having fun,’” says Carol Gardell, a personal trainer who is one of the founding sisters of the 16-year-old league. And fun is the name of the game. “If someone wants to play competitive hockey, we are not the team. If someone wants to have a great time skating and exercising and build a relationship with a wonderful group of women, come join us,” she says.
For most of these women, what happens off the field or the ice is just as much fun as what happens while playing. “We don’t go home after the game,” says Grabover. On Friday evenings during the summer, there’s still a lot of activity under the lights, on the field beside Ridgefield Playhouse. “After we run off the field, our kids jump right on and start playing,” she says. “At 11 p.m., you’ll see kids playing kickball and running around.” And the players? “We’ll drink a beer and hang out.”
For the Hericane’s, après-hockey happens at Dimitri’s, where team members laugh (a lot), sip coffee, and enjoy pancakes and eggs. Over the years, they have become cherished customers. Hanging on the wall in a corner booth is a large team photograph, framed with hockey sticks. “If I can’t go to breakfast, I typically don’t go to hockey that morning,” Gardell says. “Carol King’s song, ‘Now and Forever,’ that plays in the beginning of the movie A League of Their Own brings tears to my eyes. Some people never get to do what we do.”