934th Reservist tackles challenges in a different uniform

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Carla Fernandez
  • 934th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
American football has often kept women on the sidelines, but that is slowly changing as the Minnesota professional women's football team, the Minnesota Vixen, of the Independent Women's Football League (IWFL) prepares to open their 16th season. Tech. Sergeant Nicolette Shegstad, 934th Force Support Squadron formal schools NCOIC, is preparing for her first season with the team which kicks off April 19.

After playing intramural football while stationed at RAF Mildenhall, England, Sergeant Shegstad hung up her cleats for good when she left active duty in 2001. Or so she thought. Following a suggestion from her colleague (and former Vixen), Tech. Sergeant Joy Hopson, Shegstad decided to try out for the Vixens. A brief, intense tryout was enough to earn her a spot on the team. Her passion for the sport, and her desire to stay fit and active, pushed her to commit despite the financial challenges such a commitment posed.

The players are responsible for their own training fees, uniforms, and equipment; the team helps by scheduling fundraising opportunities to offset the costs to the individual players. So far Shegstad, along with her teammates, have worked at the St. Patrick's Day 7K race in Minneapolis and will participate in many other community service projects throughout the Twin Cities as community service is part of being a Vixen player in addition to the gridiron contests.

"Committing to this team is definitely going to help me stay in shape and help me meet the fitness requirements of the Air Force Reserve," said Shegstad. "I also think that the experience I gained in the Reserve, especially my 19 years in the Security Forces Squadron, has given me the mental toughness and determination that I need to succeed with the Vixens."

Since the Minnesota Vixens are the longest continuously-playing women's football team in the world, Shegstad has a long heritage to live up to. She knows that the sport, and the team, has a hard time attracting fans and getting exposure. While she believes women's football is gaining in popularity, it has a long way to go before being recognized equally alongside men's football. "I understand there isn't a lot of exposure to other women's football leagues," she said. "So I spend my time happily educating people about my team and our league."