Team USA’s Odessa Jenkins a remarkable builder for the game

Having reinvented football in Dallas through her pioneering work as the President of the WFA’s Elite (formerly known by the sobriquet Diamonds) franchise, Odessa Jenkins has added an incredible new facet to the city’s fond connection for the game. A multi-talented individual who has seamlessly blended entrepreneurial skills and prime athletic condition into the persona of a winning individual, she is an engaging individual contributing a new chapter to the game’s ethos.

With the city of Vancouver serving as the backdrop for a gathering of the world’s finest female football talent, the impact of such sensational women extends beyond the game. Such a label would apply to an eminent competitor like Jenkins, whose admirable efforts in raising the profile of the female game encompasses so much more than just gracing the gridiron.

Such a compelling career has extended beyond establishing the Dallas Elite as one of the signature franchises and class organizations of the WFA. Undoubtedly, the glue that holds that organization together, Jenkins is certainly transforming the club into a quaint local institution.

Having already experienced the euphoria of donning the stars and stripes for USA Football, Jenkins was definitely among the superstars representing the two-time defending gold medalists in Vancouver. Adding to such an amazing time was the fact that a former teammate from the Elite and Team USA was also on-hand in Vancouver.

Dr. Jen Welter made history as the first former IFAF women’s gold medalist to serve as a head coach. Taking on the reins for Team Australia, who were making their debut at the IFAF Women’s Worlds, there was a sense of empowering serendipity. In commenting on Welter’s impact in Vancouver, Jenkins sense of pride quickly emerges, equally proud in the achievements of such a groundbreaking individual that she has enjoyed calling a teammate in seasons past,

“Jen does a lot of things that impress me. She has been the first woman to achieve many feats in women’s football, but more importantly Jen is an advocate.

I am very proud of to see her as the only female head coach in at the games, and I was more impressed to see how well her team played and carried themselves. The Australians were tough and classy, just like Jen.”

Adding luster to the presence of Jenkins is the fact that she was part of those two gold medal winning squads, reaching such an apex in both 2010 and 2013. Both contested in Europe, the chance to play on the world’s biggest stage on North American soil represented a watershed moment.

Undoubtedly, both Canadian and American players enjoyed a shared sense of history, carrying on the positive legacy of their empowered predecessors. In spite of calling Texas home, Jenkins is familiar with the Pacific coast, as her earliest roots involve a youth spent in the Golden State,

“The weather in Vancouver was awesome. I am from southern California, and it felt a lot like home. Also, the food in downtown Vancouver was amazing. The people of Vancouver should be very proud of their city, it is a beautiful, well kept, lively city. I definitely hope to travel back to Vancouver for leisure.”

Scoring a touchdown in the second quarter of the gold medal game, extending the US lead to 17 points, Jenkins joined with Jeanette Gray (who registered a pair of touchdowns in the first quarter) and world-class quarterback Samantha Grisafe to form an arsenal of offensive firepower that resulted in a robust performance against the Canadian defense. Emerging victorious in a 41-16 final, it did not take long for Jenkins to get accustomed to the distinction of “three-time world champion.”

“Representing my country is one of my most proud moments. I am honored to have been a part of such an amazing team, and coached by such top notch coaches. It was especially great this time around because the rest of the world has improved so much.

Our greatest accomplishment is that we came together, and overcame the best that the world had to offer. Also, being able to share this experience with my Dallas Elite teammates was very special. I will never forget the feeling of seeing gold medals be placed around their necks.”

In reflecting on what she enjoyed most about getting the opportunity to compete in Vancouver, Jenkins’ team-first approach becomes very evident. While the chance to be part of the first three-time gold medalists in IFAF Women’s Worlds history is a concrete moment for Jenkins, the Amazonian efforts of her teammates, almost mercilessly intimidating opponents and shattering their confidence was a seemingly endless supply of awe and wonder,

“My favorite moment was watching the officials put gold medals around the necks of my USA teammates and coaches. Watching Hannah Degraffinreed stiff arm defenders and Elizabeth Dillow pancake linebackers would come in close second.”

While the game’s biggest paradox is that these exceptional women are remarkable sporting heroes, their efforts the groundwork for positively changing the perception of women in football, easing cultural anxieties, the concept of a living wage remains constrained.

Although it remains an obstacle shared by women in other sports, most notably basketball, hockey and soccer, where Americans have also dominated in these sporting domains, the dedication and the sincerity of competitors such as Jenkins not only establish her as a builder in this game, it shall supply the inspiration for the next generation of players to build on her legacy.

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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