Dianna Ploss holds her weekly flag football games in high regard. Not even a new titanium hip has kept the 51-year-old nurse off the field at Turf Time in Tewksbury.
Ploss had her left hip replaced in late October. But late last month, she was suiting up with teammates in the Boston Ski & Sports Club program .
Clearly relishing the challenge, she said: “I’ve had more sprains, strains, and broken bones in the past nine years than in my entire life.
“I was working out with a personal trainer when I first learned about coed flag football. He told me about the BSSC league. I called the next day, and there was one spot left for a female.”
As the Cambridge resident noted, in 2006 the Boston Ski & Sports Club’s teams always needed women.
“In those days, it was very common for me to play five to seven games on one Sunday,” said Ploss. “I’d go home tired, bruised, and filthy. But so, so happy.”
Ploss now regularly plays for two teams.
“Indoor football is great because it’s fast, fast, fast,” she said. “If both teams play hurry-up, the game feels like a Ping-Pong match.
“Outdoor football is the best because of the elements, especially if it’s extreme — very hot, very cold, or raining. Those add to the challenges of the game. And, there’s nothing like getting physically dirty. At the end of a game, you feel like a warrior who just finished battling.”
Running from November to mid-April, the indoor flag football league in Tewksbury fields 11 teams (10 players per team). The Boston Ski & Sports Club also runs an outdoor league, beginning in mid-April, at locations in Belmont, Brighton, Cambridge, Medford, and Watertown. Participants say the BSSC provides the structure of organized games, and avoids the hassle of finding pick-up football matches.
“I love the social aspect and the physical activity — it gets me off the couch in winter and it’s something to do on nice days in spring and fall,” said Michael Willits, a 47-year-old Waltham resident.
Added Paul Herbert, a 34-year-old architect from Arlington: “For me, it’s a mix of competition, fun, and exercise. We have a great team that has become a great group of friends, on and off the field. And when we’re on the field, we’re all as competitive as the next guy.
“There is something exciting about drawing up the perfect play in the huddle, beating your guy, making the perfect throw or catch, and scoring a game-winner,” he said.
Tara Mullarkey was looking for a soccer team to play on, but someone persuaded her to try flag football.
“I’ve never looked back,” said the 34-year-old Arlington resident, who has been playing for 12 years.
Herbert said he had a similar experience.
“My wife is one of our receivers, so it’s become a family affair,” he said. “Now that we have a little one, it’s been a little harder to manage, but we either find a baby sitter or he comes to the games with us.”
The coed indoor games feature six players per side, with at least two women on the field per team. And every player suits up on offense and defense.
“Football is one of the only sports that is truly a team sport,” said Wilson Kwong, 35, of Wayland. “You could be the one who is going to receive a pass, or you could be the one who helps someone else receive a pass because you are a decoy. If everyone does their job, then your chances of winning are high, and who doesn’t love to win?”
Mullarkey said she plans to keep playing until she can no longer walk.
“And then, I’ll start a wheelchair flag football league,” she said. “So, basically, I have no plans on ever hanging up the cleats.”
Ploss said she feels the same way.
“My football playing days do not have an expiration date,” she said. “So, despite the new hip and those who think [I’m] too old, as long as I can be a contributing member to my teams, I’ll continue to play.”
“That hour or two a week allows us to be kids again,” said Dave Dyjak, a 50-year-old from Methuen. “How can you put a price on that?”Brion O’Connor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.