There are distinct times when someone crosses your path and your life changes forever, even if you don’t realize it for years after. I remember meeting Darleen Hall in Grosse Pointe, MI when she was my brother-in-law’s boss. We became friends and, over the last decade, we’ve learned so many things about each other that I’m not even sure I’d think the way that I do or have my world’s view without her existence.

Darleen lives now in Portland, OR where she is a linebacker for the Portland Shockwave, an all-female full-contact football team. She has proven herself to be not only integral to the team, but inspirational in her leadership and morale-building. Although the first game of the season on April 12th was a loss, a sure-fire action-packed season is on the horizon for 2008.

Aside from her sporting endeavors, Darleen is an accomplished writer and artist. She’s inspired a lot of what I do on this blog and, I’m sure, will inspire me even further in the future. Her dabblings in the written word are creative and original. I’m quite sure that at some point, when she’s good and ready, Darleen will hit the literary world like no other.

As a disciple of her Francophile nature, in gratitude I say to her: Merci, mon cher Bleu.

Darleen1. How does a young, female artist/dreamer end up playing in the rough-and-tough world of women’s full-contact football? Was this an achievement you wanted to surmount, or was this something that fell into place?

Darleen Hall: Being a dreamer is exactly how I ended up playing football. There have always been two sides to me, Creative and Physical. I spent my childhood throwing my body around and then I would create or imagine. Playing football was a dream so when the opportunity presented itself who would I be to say no to such a gift.

2. As an outside linebacker – an extremely key position – for the Portland Shockwave, how does your place in maintaining a frame of teamwork take precedence? How are you integral in building the morale and spirit of the team as a whole?

Darleen: I guess I am what they call a silent leader. I have little words as a player so when I do speak my team listens. I think the best way to be a teammate and build the morale and spirit of the team is to lead by example. I show up and work as hard as I can and play as hard as I can.

3. It’s obvious that football is a sport, but how do you see it? Is it merely a sport? Or is it a statement of some kind, especially in gender role assignment?

Darleen: What I find amazing about sports is that they are a challenge. It is empowering to challenge your mind and body so physically. Everything goes away except for what is on that field. The world is shut out and there is only your mind trying to make your body do something extraordinary. As far as gender is concerned, it is always logistical. The world may see us as women but we only see each other as athletes. I don’t think those dynamics will ever change.

4. Life throws curve balls. How do you continue to be so strong and stalwart in the face of this? How do you express yourself beyond being the athlete that you are?

Darleen: The one thing that has been constant these last eight years is football. In a way I count on it. To be honest I have been struggling creatively. But I think this has more to do with me than the so called “curve balls” life has thrown. I also think that I can only play the victim for so long. I will crawl under my rock, disconnect from the world, then eventually look around and say to myself, well this is getting boring and continue the fight.

5. I’ve been afforded the opportunity to read some of your writings in the past and I’ve always loved your style of expression. Do you still write? Or are we to eternally be the procrastination partners? Because you know, of course, that every day I wake up I think, “I’m going to write today.” Yet I haven’t. Are we still going to meet some day in a coffee shop to write our asses off?

Darleen: You know I should have so much to write since the death of my mother. And I do. And it sits there and waits… Hopefully I will do what I feel I am intended to do. I have lost my way but continue to search for it. Maybe the road will lead to a coffee shop and I will find you there waiting and then we can finish what we started.