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Women's football team Atlanta Xplosion promotes family, athleticism
by Nneka Okona
May 23, 2013 01:16 PM | 3555 views | 1 1 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Staff / Katherine Frye<br>From left, Jenitra Shields and Kandice Mitchell, members of women's football team Atlanta Xplosion, get into position on the field.
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Kandice Mitchell is a sports fiend. She has loved all things sports since she was a child, but it was not until 2005 that her love of the game of football came to fruition — when she joined women’s football team Atlanta Xplosion.

The Stockbridge resident and Mrs. U.S. International of 2007, who is known as No. 51 to her teammates, is a linebacker for the team of 51 women, as young as 18 and spanning the full spectrum of careers and walks of life.

“When I was younger, I used to want to play [football] with my brothers,” said Mitchell. “When I was growing up, girls didn’t play football. It was unheard of.”

Her husband, former Cincinnati Bengals player Anthony Mitchell, was in the midst of a trade when she heard about the team and immediately looked it up.

Soon thereafter, she was trying out for a slot on the team she and fellow teammate Jenitra Shields, No. 87 — aka J-Roc — refer to as their family.

Shields’ story is almost the same as Mitchell’s.

The College Park resident grew up in Ellenwood with athleticism coursing through her veins.

Joining the team was another step toward satisfying the desire to master yet another sport.

“This is my first season,” Shields said. “I heard about the team a few years ago back in 2009. I tried out in 2010, but wasn’t committed. This is the first year I’ve made a commitment to keep coming back.”

Making a commitment to the team’s rigorous schedule is a must with practices on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, reviewing films of past games on Wednesday evenings and a game every Saturday at Campbell High School in Smyrna.

Since 2002, the team has been giving women a chance to play football on a professional level and also since then, bonds have been formed and skills have been taught.

But even more than playing the game is how the women have gone from being complete strangers to teammates and then to sisters.

“We call each other sisters because it is a sisterhood if you are playing football,” said Shields. “We are a family who plays football.”

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