In 2010, Karla Fisher (46), Defensive Back for the Portland Fighting Fillies, stood on the field at the finals of the full-contact professional football for women, a dream come true for the mother of two, computer programmer and developer, and former Marine.
Growing up in a small mining town in Pennsylvania in 1960s in a conservative working class family, Karla Fisher saw little escape from the way things always have been. Women were told they could only be one of three things when they grew up: wife, teacher, or nurse.
Described as a weird-loner-child by her mother, she saw things differently. She knew there was something more to the world than these culturally imposed limits. She questioned everything and loved sports – not just watching but playing.
Growing up in an industrial Pennsylvania town, Karla Fisher always played full-contact football with her brothers and male cousins. “I was fearless. In open-field tackle, I could knock down anybody,” says Fisher, as she twists a football in her hands.She never suspected that the very physical sport was the province only of boys and men. Until junior high, when she tried out for her school’s team. “I was actually ridiculed off the field by the coach and the team,” says Fisher, who now lives in Southeast Portland. “I never played again.”
As an overachiever, Fisher grew frustrated with school and life in the small industrial town. Her first escape was through a student exchange program to Europe, then into the military, first the US Army and then the United States Marines. The military led her into advanced computer programming and cryptology, and into Desert Storm, the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91.
Raising two daughters as a single mom, she moved from war and military life into the insane high-tech boom, successfully riding the dot com wave. Leading her field, she holds several patents for computer technology including a method for interfacing a device to a network projector and a detection system for updating an image display device from a remote location, both integral to today’s highly visual business presentation industry.
Through it all, she’s been on a mission to find balance and peace in her life to counter the inner turmoil, which led her to move with her daughters from the fast pace of Southern California to a quiet 40 acre tree farm and small horse ranch near Gaston, Oregon, becoming part of the rise of “Silicon Forest” around Portland, Oregon.
Part of her passion for finding that balance has led her to become an expert horsewoman in dressage, finding a strong connection with the animals and nature in general.
Her passion for music led her to pick up the classical guitar in 2002, discovering an amazing natural gift for music. She was soon performing in local cafes and concerts, studying with renowned modern classical guitar teachers John Doan and Scott Kritzer, among others. She founded the successful Classical Guitar Immersion Conference (CGI) in 2006, a week-long intensive classical guitar training program held every summer in Portland, Oregon.
With no experience in film, in 2006, Karla Fisher took on the challenge of making the documentary movie In Search of the Harp Guitar, with John Doan, as mentioned in the interview, another “don’t tell me I can’t” step in her life.
In Search of the Harp Guitar Trailer
JOHN DOAN HARP GUITARIST | Myspace Music Videos
Upon turning 40, Karla returned to passion for physical fitness to begin an intensive health and body revitalization, losing her computer programming sit-on-my-butt weight, moving quickly into endurance and body-building training. With the commitment and passion she throws into everything, in a short time, she was involved in body-building training and competition.
On her blog, she tells of how a chance stop at the grocery store turned into a life changing moment with the discovery of the Portland Fighting Fillies football team:
Sep 19th, 2009: It was a normal Saturday morning and I was going to our local grocery in the small town of Gaston [Oregon] for some rib-eye for dinner later that evening. I stopped to read the postings on the window as I always do and there it was. It was an announcement of a full contact football team tryout in Forest Grove. But this was not a normal full contact football team. It was a woman’s team. My heart skipped a beat and my mind immediately went back to my youth. I grew up with my older brother and his friends. Every Sunday we would play full contact (no pads) football. I was little but I was also fearless and as such became the best tackle in the neighborhood and was always one of the “first pick” players.
When I entered Jr High, I was naturally excited to tryout for the football team and so I went out with the boys. Long story short is that the coaches and the boys ridiculed me and humiliated me for even thinking that was an okay thing to do. When I entered High School I was smarter and had a private talk with the coach asking if I could try out. He was nice enough but emphatically told me that football was for boys. So I spent my life doing “girl” sports.
I have played in all manner of basketball and softball semi pro and intramural and scholastic teams and when I was graduated from High School I became a member of the USMC fighting forces. When I had daughters, I encouraged them to play sports and I was thrilled when my youngest claimed she wanted to play football in High School. I went to every game and stood on the sidelines with tears in my eyes. Tears of immense pride and also tears of regret and sadness. Because I knew I would never get the chance to experience this sport as a formal sport.
But all that was ages ago. I was now 46 years of age and my football playing daughter had just graduated from Purdue. I sighed because it seemed that once again the chance was close but I would miss it. But I picked up my cell phone and I called the number anyway. I figured that if I could somehow support this team, then I would be able to help make this an opportunity for all young women.
The phone call to support the team led to a try out with the team. Eight hours later, she was a member of a semi-pro full contact football team, making her childhood dream come true.In her testimonial about trainer Alan Aragon, she explains:
If I had my life to live over, I would make sure to learn much earlier the lesson that good health and performance is achieved from the inside out. Athletes may be born, but great athletes are made with a combination of the right training and (more importantly) the right nutrition…My latest goal to perform as a professional athlete in a sport historically dominated by men seemed somewhat impossible the day I walked onto the tryout field…Today I live my dream of being a top level athlete and perform even better than I did at a much younger age.
In the interview, she explains her life’s philosophy:
Life is an ever moving thing. It never should stop. You should never stop growing. You should never stop being uncomfortable. You never stop being forward moving, backwards moving or sideways. Keep moving. Just moving. And through all of that, show gratitude for what you have.
As Karla Fisher stood on that football field, proud of her team’s first year ending in the final playoffs, gratitude for having come this far to be in this moment, overwhelmed her.
The Portland Fighting Fillies lost in their first finals competition, but Karla and the team are determined to come back even stronger for next year’s finals.
Women’s Football References and Resources
- Portland Fighting Fillies
- Portland Fighting Fillies on Facebook
- Women’s Football Alliance – Woman’s Full-Contact Professional Football
- Forest Grove News Times – A League of Their Own
- Powder puff? Not for these women | KATU.com – Portland News (Video)
- Fighting Fillies play for the love of football | OregonLive.com
- Women’s Football Alliance – Joining a new football frontier
Articles by Karla Fisher on Body Building and Training
- The "clean eating" and "cheating" thread – Bodybuilding.com Forums
- Training Program Basics – Bodybuilding.com Forums
- One more season for this ol' gal – Bodybuilding.com Forums
- Realistic Goals and Competing – Bodybuilding.com Forums
Classical Guitar References and Resources
- John Doan – Classical Guitar, Harp Guitar, Recording Artist
- Scott Kritzer – Classical Guitar Instructor
- Classical Guitar Immersion Conference (CGI)
- Classical Guitar defined
- Harp guitar defined
- Summer Concert Series at Hart | OregonLive.com
- Event: Scott Kritzer Classical Guitar Student Recital, February 3, 2007
- Welcome to Guitar Principles!
- Harp Guitar Gathering November 2004
Written by davemoyer, published on January 20, 2011
Tags: achievement, athlete, change, changing, computer programming, confidence, confident, female football teams, fitness, football, football teams, goals, gratitude, healthy, high-tech, personal satisfaction, playing sports, sports, women in sports, women sports teams