The Thunder's first home game is scheduled for April 8 against Fayetteville at Bristol Municipal Stadium.
After making it to the United States Women's Football League Championship last year, the team has high hopes for this season, according to center guard and defensive tackle Jody Rutledge.
“We made it to the championship last year,” Rutledge said. “But, we hope to win the championship this season.”
The team's new quarterback, Andrea Werner, said they have been practicing for the past few months and working hard to make sure that they will come out on top this season.
“We meet every Sunday and run through all of the plays over and over,” Werner said. “We’ve been working on improving our plays since December.”
Werner also emphasized that, though this is her first season with the team, she is confident that the team can have a great season. Since first joining the team, she has continued to improve her skills as the team’s signal caller with the guidance of head coach Dave Johnson.
“I’m confident about this season. We have a great coaching staff,” Werner said. “Being well-coached and coachable makes a huge difference.”
A young team in terms of longevity, Tri-Cities Thunder currently has about 20 players, according to Dawn Lamma-Owens, who plays offensive and defensive tackle. But being new to the league has not stopped the Thunder from improving and focusing on its goals.
"The goal for this season is obviously to make sure we get the ring this time," Lamma-Owens said. "And we continue to improve and keep our head in the game."
For people who aren't familiar with the team and the league, the United States Women's Football League (USWFL) is one of the largest leagues in the nation with teams from all over the country competing.
The Tri-Cities Thunder operates as a nonprofit organization, often focusing on giving back to the community and empowering others.
Lamma-Owens noted that the team held a fundraiser in response to the forest fires that plagued the region and devastated the Gatlinburg community in late November. As volunteers and organizations converged on the area to lend a helping hand, Tri-Cities Thunder was right there to help.
"We collected a lot of donations for the fires in Gatlinburg," Lamma-Owens said. "We went and got as many things as we could, like personal care items and non-perishables. We filled up all of the team vans as well as a truck."
Lamma-Owens emphasized that being a part of this team isn't all about winning in sports, it is also about being a positive force in the community.
"It's all about empowerment and giving back to the community," she said.
While the team continues to play the sport they love and support the community, they also have a clear message: Football isn’t just for men.
“Our message is that you can do anything you want,” Lamma-Owens said. “You’ll see some of the hardest hitting players you’ll ever see right here on this team. We want to show that this isn’t just a male-dominated sport. Anybody can play.”
“We hit hard and we run all the same plays,” Werner said.
Werner added that though she always wanted to play football, many girls grow up thinking that they can't. Once she found out she could, Werner fell in love with the sport from the get-go.
“One of my friends told me about the team so I went to see what it was about. When I went to tryouts, I fell in love with it immediately,” Werner said. “When you’re a young girl, you think that you aren’t allowed to play, but you would be blown away by how many girls actually play tackle football.”
As the team gears up for the new season and the league continues to break down the barriers in the world of football, Tri-Cities Thunder continues to encourage more people to get involved. For more information on the upcoming season as well as information on how to join and support the team, visit their website. You can also find more information on the USWFL website.