A league of their own: Local ladies participate in fantasy football league

by Emma Stone

Last year, a Facebook post was made by Hope Underwood, a Ruston citizen, looking for members to join an all-women’s fantasy football league.

Underwood was so inundated with replies from women that she had to create a waiting list.

But the Leading Ladies’ League was born.

“It started out with 12 teams,” said Underwood. “I had people asking me that if anybody dropped, they wanted to be the first to know. So, I ended up having a kind of waiting list.”

Underwood had previous experience playing in fantasy football leagues but was faced with plenty of doubt because of her gender.

“I’ve played fantasy football for a while now with my husband and with other mutual friends,” said Underwood. “Very rarely there would be a couple of females. I found that it wasn’t as welcoming especially if the females were winning. I often got comments saying my husband must had been helping me.”

Now, Underwood has women from north Louisiana to south Louisiana to Texas that compete with 10 teams lined up for 2023.

Kelli Black, a member and Lincoln Parish native, has now spent six years playing in fantasy football leagues.

“It’s changed the way I’ve watched football which is strange,” said Black. “I’ve always watched my favorite teams, but in fantasy, I may not pick anyone from my (favorite) team for my draft.”

The Leading Ladies League draft is done entirely through the Sleeper App, where the women can pick their players each week. They can also participate in group chat where they plan draft times.

“Usually I kind of start to look on the app and can pick people and put them on my board,” said Black. “When it comes up to my turn to pick, I can see who is available.”

The top five teams for last year were separated by only about fifty points, and the winner earned bragging rights along with first pick for this year’s draft.

Lauren Sparks, member and Ruston native, won first place during the inaugural season of the league.

“Growing up, my dad always played in fantasy football leagues. I would always hear him talk about it with his buddies,” said Sparks. “I’ve always been into sports with him so when Hope posted, I decided to join.”

Sparks had joined her first league at one of her previous jobs. After the season finished, Sparks was the champion.

“It is fun to do an all-ladies league, because you don’t have a bunch of men who are super hardcore about it,” said Sparks.

Underwood hopes to keep low maintenance and low pressure for women in the league to participate, because many of them are mothers or have full-time jobs.

“It just gives a place where there’s no judgement,” said Underwood. “You know everybody has their own method and ways for approaching their draft and beginning of season rosters. It is, also, an opportunity for some of these women who didn’t watch football to learn more about it.”

This year’s Leading Ladies League consists of the following GMs:
Hope Underwood (Ruston, LA) – 9 years playing fantasy football, 2 years as commissioner of Leading Ladies League (LLL)
Kelli Black (Ruston, LA) – 5 years playing fantasy football, 2 years in LLL
Alison Findley (Ruston, LA) – 2 years playing fantasy football, 2 years in LLL
Tori Brister (Ruston, LA) – 2 years playing fantasy football, 2 years in LLL
Lauren Sparks (Ruston, LA) – 4 years playing fantasy football, 2 years in LLL, Season 1 champion
Laura Freeman (Rayville, LA) – 4 years playing fantasy football, 2 years in LLL
Brittney Taylor (Sherman, TX) – 8 years playing fantasy football, 2 years in LLL
Jess Deon (Baton Rouge, LA) – 8 years playing fantasy football, 2 years in LLL
Destinee Manshack (Many, LA) – 4 years playing fantasy football, 2 year in LLL
Ashley Guillory (Texas) – 4 years playing fantasy football, 1 year in LLL

The Leading Ladies’ League draft was Sunday.