Raksha Bethencourt is changing the playing field

Posted at 4:20 PM, Apr 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-23 16:42:00-04

ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A woman, Jen Welter, is making history as NFL’s first female coach, leading the inside linebackers for the Arizona Cardinals.

Now, women are asking when one of us will take the field as a player. We’ll share how one woman is taking the first step and making history in a sport dominated by men.

It’s crushing. Hard hitting. A sport created by men … for men.

At 5’4, 140 pounds, Raksha Bethencourt is changing the playing field. Raksha is the first female to tryout and make the Orlando Phantoms Minor League football team and one of the few women to ever play nationally, with guys three times her size. “I’ve even hit her a couple times. She just bounced back up so it’s all good,” David Roberts, Defensive Tackle for the Phantoms, said. “The hit didn't hurt as much as the landing did,” joked Bethencourt.

Her stats are adding up, four kickoffs and three assisted tackles, but not everyone is a believer. “If I took the time to pay attention to how they treat me or what they say to each other, then I wouldn't be focused on what I have to do and doing it correctly,” Bethencourt said.

“It's easy for her to give up and nobody would think anything less of her. So, but she won't, she doesn't, accept that” said Michael Torres, Owner and Coach of the Orlando Phantoms.

Why does she do it? Her daughter, seven-year-old Mila. “She gets back up every time she falls” Mila proudly stated.

Raksha is a single mom, up early, carpool, work as a legal assistant, carpool again, homework, online courses, dinner, and then workouts.

“Raksha actually motivates me,” Tyler Brown, a Defensive Tackle for the Phantoms, stated. “It's very rare. Just cool. Unique,” added fellow player Mark Winson Voltaire. “She hustles, she works her butt off. She's not scared,” said Roberts.

Not scared and hoping to make a difference. “I can inspire people with it. I want to leave a legacy for my daughter,” Bethencourt said.

Since joining the Phantoms in 2017, Raksha has been part of two championship teams. The coach says she’s making an impact. He’s been contacted by other women asking when tryouts will be.

Raksha also plays for the Orlando Women’s Tackle team, the Anarchy, with 25 solo tackles last season.