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Led by Alberty, NY Sharks swim into new season

Football is the fastest-growing sports venue for female athletes in the United States. It has grown from three teams in 1999 to more than 100 across the country in 2004.

Named 2004 Female Athlete of the Year by the Nassau County Sports Commission, 45-year-old owner and player Andra Douglas takes the National Champion New York Sharks Women’s Tackle Football Team into its fifth season April 3.

The New York Sharks are home to 50 female football players from the tri-state area who represent all of New York City and are ranked tops in the country.

Douglas’ award is not just about football. It includes her semi-pro status in golf and her background in rugby. High school and college tackle football was only reserved for men, so you can expect the rest of the team members to have different athletic backgrounds.

Flushing resident Vivian Alberty is a veteran player with a background as a competitive diver and a 1996 Olympian champion (coming in 27th) held in Puerto Rico, where she was born. In addition, she shined as a record-holder at Coral Springs High School and the University of South Carolina. But like many of the Sharks players, she had always yearned to play football.

The opportunity arose with a tryout in Syracuse, N.Y. In 2002 Alberty joined the Syracuse Sting, a women’s tackle football team connected with the Women’s Professional Football League, or WPFL, taking on the position of linebacker. Being that football is her passion, she was willing to make the trek.

That same year the New York Sharks, with the Independent Women’s Football League, or IWFL, took the championship with a record of having no more than six points scored against them the entire season (including in the championship game).

Alberty decided that that was the team for her, and playing defensive end, she helped them carry the 2003 season, winning the Eastern Conference Division.

“I had a great season,” Alberty said. “I learned a great deal more even after playing one year at Syracuse, and our team unity still shined even after our loss in the Super Bowl. This team is definitely high-class in my book. I am extremely thankful for this opportunity to play the sport I love.”

How were her stats? She had seven tackles, 29 assists, 2.5 sacks and one blocked punt. For Alberty, playing for the NY Sharks was an ideal situation. “Not only are they one of the top teams in the league, but the people on the team make the experience that much more rewarding,” she said.

“I created many friends within the team and other teams, which allowed me to develop more as a person. Now I want to play until I can’t move anymore.”

Members of the NY Sharks, as well as all players in the rest of the IWFL, not only do not get paid but they have to pay to play. Each of the Sharks players has to shell out $1,000 to help cover expenses that include the coaches, football field rental and travel. This year, the New York Sharks will be up against the Chicago Force, which means airline tickets and hotel rooms.

Her profession as a diving coach is just one of the jobs Alberty holds that contributes to her fee. And many of the players, friends and family are approached for donations. Needless to say, there is great passion in everyone’s performance and Alberty is hoping to be one of the players to bring home the 2004 Super Bowl.

The New York Sharks 2004 season home games will be played on the football field of August Martin High School at 156-10 Baisley Blvd. in Jamaica. On Saturday, April 3, at 3 p.m., they were to take on the Atlanta Xplosion as Cheer NY cheers them on. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under.

For more information, visit their Web site at nysharksfootball.com.

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