WOMEN IN SPORTS
Good afternoon Sonfre, first introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background in sports.
My name is Sonfre Roberson. I have some hobbies, I’m a drummer. I’ve been drumming since I was 13 years old. But as far as football is concerned, I started in Popwarner. It was kinda funny because my dad tried to sign me up for cheerleading, and my little brother for football. I was like, “I don’t want to cheer, I wanna play football!” My dad was like “WHAT?!” He asked if I was sure, and he said he’d sign me up as long as I promised one thing, “Don’t cry.”
Tell us a little bit about your background with Pop Warner.
I played for Pop Warner for three years. I was one of the hardest hitters on the squad. It was pretty much an all boys league; there were no other girls on the team. I took a little break in high school, because all of the boys were like pretty boys. I remember thinking, I wanna play football, not be pretty. They’re gonna get me hurt out there, just trying to be cute.
Ultimately, I ended up playing semi-pro football for San Diego in 2002. I was 19 years old, and that was my very first year playing semi-pro football. I played defense. Then I took some time off, after being injured. But the seven years of playing semi-pro was all leading up to me trying out for the WFLA, where instead of paying to play, like the semi-pro, someone was promising me a pay.
So obviously you have a passion and love for sports, but where did the love for football come in? Can you tell us about how you ultimately found that passion?
Specifically, it started with my dad. I grew up in a house full of boys. I had my younger brother and my dad. My dad loved football. We had a little TV that we watched on our table, and my dad used to quiz us when we watched the games together while we were sitting there eating. I was like “Oh man, this is super dope.” And I had a lot of boys on my block, and I would go out and play with my friends and my dad. So I think, through my dad’s love for football, I developed a passion for football. My dad was the start of it all.
Did you ever feel pressured, or outcast being a woman that was so heavily invested in sports, or did the outside societal pressures never really bother you?
No, it never bothered me, to be honest. I already had a certain type of fight and determination from birth. If someone tells me I can’t do something, it pushes me harder to do it. There were times when a couple of family members would be like “Oh, girls shouldn’t be playing football.” But all it took was for them to come to one of my games and they were like “Oh my gosh, that girl can play football.” There was no pressure, and if they did give me pressure, that just motivated me more to change the perspective of women in football in general.
So you were just offered a position in the Women’s Football League Association founded by Lupe Rose in 2018, is the first ever team to promise a pay to its female athletes. So could you tell us about the WFLA. You were one of the first 31 draft invitees. How did that come to be, what was your involvement in being invited to the draft?
Well to start off with the combine, you would go out there and get promised a ball. So if the owners of the team gave you a ball, that would mean you were going to the draft. That essentially means, “Hey we want you. We want you on our squad.” It took awhile for me and I started to get nervous. I had a couple of owners really digging me, and watching me play, but I still didn’t get a ball. But I said “You know, I’m gonna keep on doing this because I really love this. I just love the sport.” Within the last hour of the combine, which took all day, I finally got a ball. And the first thing I thought of was “I’m gonna give this to my dad.”
After you were selected, how did the draft go? What was that experience like trying out?
When you first go to the draft, you don’t know what to expect. You have to do all these interviews, and you have to impress these team owners, and very wonderful people who want you on their squad. I was so nervous, I couldn’t eat. The interview process was set up to try to get to know the person outside of the athlete. And you’re waiting there to hear if these owners want you on to the team. The great news is I got the second pick of the second round, which was fast.
What team did you wind up singing with?
I signed with the Los Angeles Thames.
Were you happy with that choice?
Going back to a couple of questions before, now as a woman in sports you may face societal pressures, but this time around it’s not from a couple of kids on a playground, or family members which you mentioned before. How do these pressures differ, now that you are more in the public eye?
The pressures no longer come from my family. They want to encourage me to do the best I can. But now I’m an adult, and I’m supposed to know better. Now it’s my career. I worked hard, and I might have had to go through some other leagues to get there, but now I’m doing something I love. I take that excitement and love they gave me and I want to display it through my career for my family.
Does being in the public eye make you worry more about your gender and how it is not normally seen as a female sport? Or is this something that has helped you overcome some of these pressures?
It’s more motivational to me. What people don’t see, is making me more motivated to make people see that women can do this sport. It’s making me more motivated for women’s empowerment, to let them know that women can do this, and we’ve always been able to do it. It’s just a timing thing. It motivates me to be the best player, and best person that I can be, so that people can see that women can do the exact same thing that guys can do. And we should be getting paid the same exact amount. And we could probably do it even better!
We all know that training to be a professional athlete takes time, hard work, determination and patience. Where many make this their dream job, I think many Americans are critical at first to say that it is too far fetched or unrealistic. However, now you are chasing this dream, but you are also a woman. Have you ever felt like you were criticized more for following your dreams, because you are a woman?
Oh man! Where would you be without the critics? You must be doing something right, there’s always gonna be critics out there. As soon as you start putting your focus on the negativity, you’re not gonna get anywhere. I play defense, If I miss one tackle, it’s going to blow up on social media. That doesn’t mean you are going to stop playing the sport. You can either let the critics destroy you, or motivate you. I’m choosing motivation.
Do you think that the backbone comes from a personality trait of yourself, or that’s from your experience?
Yeah, that’s me, always even as a young child. Women have a different mentality in general though. We’re go-getters. We’re playing a real contact sport here, we’re not playing with Barbies. For me, that’s just how it is, brush it off your shoulder, keep moving on. That’s not how all people are, but that’s how I’m taking it.
What advice would you give to women today, who may be looking for a professional career in sports?
I’d start off with saying be the greater and the most powerful investor in yourself. Don’t wait for someone to invest in you. You have to start very young, to become who you want to become. You also have to show yourself love. If people are saying girls can’t play sports, but you love yourself enough and you can motivate yourself enough to do it, then who cares what they think? Then I’d say do everything that you do as an athlete with a purpose. Don’t just show up. Even if it’s just a squat. You also have to find your purpose. Once you find your purpose, do everything with a purpose. Don’t do anything in vain. Also, I’d say, don’t just work to be a part of the game, work to become that game changer. You gotta be that Kobe or that Jordan.
Luxe Kurves thanks Sonfre for her time. Make sure to keep up with Sonfre, and the rest of the LA Thames and the WFLA football team on socials:
Instagram – @sosoathletic
Facebook – Sonfre Roberson
League/Team Instagram – @wflafootball, @losangelesthames
Website – www.wflafootball.com