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Meet Columbus’ semi-pro, and full-tackle, women’s football team

Meet Columbus’ semi-pro, and full-tackle, women’s football team

Jack McLaughlin

The Columbus Chaos– an all-woman tackle team in the Women’s Football Alliance – is making a name for itself, and leaving antiquated expectations about football in Columbus in the dust. One of the team’s players, Ellyn Briggs, tackles the subject for (614) Magazine

Columbus, Ohio and college football — a place and a sport so intertwined that it almost feels wrong to discuss one without mentioning the other, no matter the circumstance. But as most eyes stayed fixed on Ohio State year after year, another version of the game has been quietly developing here in the Capital City: Women’s football. 

Those words might look a little more foreign next to each other, but don’t fear — you read them correctly. Women (myself included) are playing professional football in Columbus, and they’re doing so in a league with nearly all the same rules as the NCAA, including wearing full pads and having the full ability to tackle. 

The Columbus Chaos play in Division II of the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA), the world’s largest and oldest women’s tackle football league. The WFA is currently home to more than 60 U.S. teams across three divisions, all competing to win their respective championship games, which are played at the NFL’s Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton each July. 

Columbus’ team operated under a different name — the Comets — for roughly two decades before dissolving just prior to the pandemic. But two former players, Chelsea Johnson (CJ) and Staci Alkula, restarted the team as the Chaos in 2021, and it’s been onward and upward ever since. 


I became part of the Chaos family after inadvertently stumbling across a post about their tryouts while scrolling Reddit last fall. The chat forum is a corner of the internet that I don’t usually hang out in, but it’s great for geeking out about niche topics or getting answers to random questions, which I was on a quest to do. In addition to my now being a pro football player, I’m also a big aviation enthusiast, and so I had meandered my thumbs on over to r/Columbus thread in the hopes of learning about any cool new plane-spotting locations around the city. But my attention shifted as soon as I saw the words “women’s full tackle football.” 

As the daughter of a Major League Baseball player, sports are (and always have been) the defining pillar of my life. Growing up, I played and loved almost all of them — except for football. Its associations with brutishness and bravado made it the one game that felt totally inaccessible to me as a girl. Still, I’d toss the rock out in the yard with my dad and brother every chance I could get because I really enjoyed it. And for so many years, this is what I believed would be the extent of my football experience. Until that day on Reddit. 

I ran to the next tryout I could make. Alongside about 25 other women on a Saturday morning in late October, I spent three hours doing brand-new-to-me football drills in the pouring rain. It was the most fun I could remember having in a long while. I was offered a spot on the team and since then, I’ve spent almost every weekend training with that initial group of women, and about 25 more. 

Practices are quite a scene; we run, we lift, we study offensive and defensive schemes. In between workout days, we’ll hop on Zoom to pore over our playbooks. The 2024 team, coached by Mike Kandler, is a solid mix of veterans and rookies, most of whom were drawn to the Chaos for similar reasons. 

Photo by Aaron Massey

“I tried out because I played sports my whole childhood and missed being a part of something bigger than myself like that as an adult,”  said Alicia Alderman, a first-year quarterback and wide receiver. “I’ve always wanted to play football but never thought I would be able to because of gender stereotypes, so I jumped at this opportunity.” 

The Chaos went 4-3 and made the playoffs last year, and the expectation is that we’ll go even further this year. But ultimately, the player experience is about more than just winning and losing — it’s really about the joy of learning something in tandem with other female athletes from all different backgrounds.  

Photo by Aaron Massey

Rookie defensewoman Vata Chai explained this sentiment. “I’m athletic, I’m a fast learner and I love to be active in general,” she said. “I needed a new challenge to keep myself engaged, and what better way to do that than taking on an entirely different ball game, literally.”

And fortunately, women’s desire to gain football knowledge is being rewarded more and more, even at the game’s highest ranks. 

“It has existed for decades, but appreciation for women’s tackle football is finally growing in a meaningful way,” said head coach Mike Kandler. “This is on display by the several women hired as NFL coaches in recent years, many of whom have extensive WFA experience.” 

So, if you’re a woman reading this, know that you can play football. You can start your journey right here in Columbus. And if enough of us do, perhaps one day, the Buckeyes won’t be the only NFL factory in town. 


The Chaos’ first game will take place on April 27th. A full schedule has not yet been released, but the team typically plays on Saturday evenings at Whitehall Yearling High School between April and June. Interested potential players, fans, game day volunteers or sponsors can learn more by going to

Want to read more? Check out our print publications, (614) Magazine and Stock & Barrel. Learn where you can find free copies of our newest issues here!


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