by Scott DCamp
Former Northland golf and softball standout Brenda Fritz has traded in her clubs and bat for a helmet and shoulder pads. The 2001 Win-E-Mac and 2003 Northland graduate is embarking on her first season as a professional football player for the Minnesota Vixen of the Women’s Football Alliance.
The McIntosh native was primarily a basketball player in high school.
“I wanted to take a break from it,” Fritz said. “I wanted to do something else.”
That something else turned out to be golf. Fritz fell love with the game and it became her new number one sport.
She was good enough at golf to be recruited to play in college and she chose to continue her education at Northland Community and Technical College because it had a golf team.
Fritz continued to excel in golf at the next level, and she was a national qualifier for the Rick Nikunen-coached squad in fall 2001.
The following spring, Fritz added softball to her athletic repertoire. She had never played fast pitch softball before but wanted to give it a try after watching the women’s college world series.
Kathy Huschle, the head softball coach at Northland, was surprised that Fritz had never played before but she offered Fritz an opportunity to try out.
“She came to the first meeting in the spring of 2002 and was part of Northland softball until she graduated in the spring of 2003,” Huschle said. “As a coach, I didn't even know she was on campus, so she got none of the heavy recruiting from me.”
Fritz went to a few practices and ended up behind the plate as the team’s catcher.
“Brenda ended up being a huge asset to the team,” Huschle said. “Brenda had played some slow pitch summer ball, but I asked her to catch for us, one of the positions that is entirely foreign to slow pitch softball. Boy did she learn that position fast and played it to the T. She blocked pitches, framed pitches, caught foul balls and blocked the plate like a pro.”
Huschle said Fritz was also solid with her bat, normally hitting second, third or fourth.
“She joked that I was this gift just sitting outside her door,” Fritz said.
Fritz ended up playing softball for two years at Northland. During her second year, Huschle had brought in a catcher from Bagley. Fritz’s bat and speed were too valuable to take out of the game, however, so she moved to the outfield.
After her graduation from NCTC in 2003, Fritz continued her softball career at Bemidji State University. Including a medical redshirt year in 2004, Fritz would spend a total of three seasons on the BSU softball team.
When she graduated from BSU in 2006, Fritz took a teaching job in California.
“Being a female athlete, I knew I wasn’t going to go pro in anything,” Fritz said. “I would always try to find a competitive edge.”
While living in California, Fritz tried to fill the competitive void by playing slow pitch softball in some fairly competitive leagues.
“Something was still missing, the every day grind was missing,” Fritz said. “When I moved back to Minnesota, I was talking to my pastor and he mentioned that there was a women’s professional football team.”
“They have been around 19 seasons and I had never heard of them,” Fritz said. “It was just dumb luck. My pastor knew about it because the kicker on the team was a neighbor.”
Fritz moved back to Minnesota to be closer to family. She tried out for the Minnesota Vixen last fall and made the team.
The Minnesota Vixen were founded in 1999. During their inaugural season, the Vixen and Lake Michigan Minx played a six-game series in what was known as the “No Limits Barnstorming Tour.”
The Minx disbanded the following year, but nine new franchises debuted along with the Vixen in the new Women’s Professional Football League.
The WPFL grew to 15 teams at its peak before disbanding after the 2007 season. From 2008-16, the Vixen competed in the Independent Women’s Football League.
Now entering its 19th season, the Minnesota Vixen are the longest continuously operating women's tackle football team in history.
In 2016, the Vixen posted a perfect 8-0 record and won multiple championships, including the IWFL Midwest Division and IWFL Eastern Conference. The Vixen also appeared in the IWFL World Championship game in 2016 against the Utah Falconz.
This year, the Minnesota Vixen joined the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) for its 19th season. The league follows NCAA rules for games.
The Vixen started practicing just before Christmas and their season opener was Saturday, April 1.
“For our team we specialize on both sides of the ball,” Fritz said. “I play cornerback and safety on defense and on offense I am a wide receiver.”
The league is similar to many men’s semi-pro leagues, with a heavier emphasis on semi than pro.
“We get our uniform and fees paid for but it costs money to play,” Fritz said. “You have to pay dues but there are opportunities for fundraising.
One common fundraiser is working at TCF Bank Stadium doing bag checks. Each player also sells season tickets.
“We purchase our own helmets and pads,” Fritz said. Uniforms are provided and transportation is provided.
The Vixen play home games at Simley Athletic Field in Inver Grove Heights and they practice at Northwest Health Sciences in Bloomington.
“It has been a blessing to play for the Vixens,” Fritz said. “My coaching staff, from the head coach to the position coaches, have provide the ground work to be a leader. At the same time they are very personable, joking around with us.”
(all games are on Saturdays 6 pm)
n @ Madison Blaze, April 1
n @ Minnesota Blaze, April 8
n Kansas City Titans, April 29
n @ Chicago Force, May 6
n @ Kansas City Titans, May 20
n St.Louis Slam, May 27
n Minnesota Machine, June 3