President/owner Derby City Dynamite Women’s Tackle Football
Family: girlfriend Victoria Kennedy, daughter Jasmine, foster sons Rafael and Ismael
By Carrie Vittitoe | Photo by Kylene White
Thelma Banks loves sports and has played lots of them: tackle football, rugby, soccer, and softball. She was living in Belgium and playing rugby when she first heard a news report about tackle football in the United States and was intrigued. When she moved to Kentucky, she discovered the women’s tackle football team Kentucky Karma and found she enjoyed playing the game. Now, she works to not only introduce other women to the game but to expand the fan base throughout the state and the region.
How did you come to own Derby City Dynamite?
I played for Kentucky Karma for quite a few years. In the latter part of 2011, the owner said, ‘I’m going to sell this team. Are you interested in buying it?’ It was out of my price range. I ended up starting my own team with a couple other veterans; we didn’t want football to leave Kentucky.
What do your days look like as owner of the team?
Not only am I the owner of our team, I’m also a board member for the whole league, the Women’s Football Alliance, the largest women’s tackle football league in the United States. As far as our team goes, [I’m responsible for] everything cradle to grave: making sure we have uniforms, practice locations, referees, and medical. I’m the southeast regional representative [of the league]; any issues, concerns, or training come through me.
How do these different hats you wear challenge you?
The biggest challenge as owner is being recognized. A lot of people in the United States still don’t know that there are women’s tackle football players. We’re trying to pave the way. [Another challenge is] funding. We do a lot of fundraising to allow the girls to be able to afford to play, and we’re always looking for sponsors. Some of the league sponsors this year were kind of huge: Secret, Wilson, Zenith. We’re trying to get our brand out there.
What has been a highlight of being owner of the team?
The biggest highlight would be us winning the national championship [in 2021]. Ohio has three or four teams. Georgia has a couple teams. Here in little old Kentucky we have to recruit from out of state. For us to pull it off was an amazing feat. Winning the national championship has opened up some doors.
What have you learned about yourself from your different experiences?
One of the biggest things is about prioritizing and management. [Tackle football] is a passionate hobby. We love it and put in a lot of time, [but] we still hold jobs and families we maintain outside of football.
What is a fear that follows you?
Injury. We played the Columbus Chaos and Victoria ended up getting hit and breaking her leg. They had to do surgery to repair her knee. It changes your livelihood. You’re sacrificing your body to the football gods.
What is your favorite Olympic game and why?
I love synchronized diving. I think it’s absolutely beautiful and so precise.
What are your best and worst habits?
My best habit is taking care of people and actually caring about each person that I come in contact with. My worst habit is procrastination.
What is a professional bucket list goal? What is a personal one?
I’d absolutely love to win every divisional championship within our league. [Personally], I want to go water skiing. I keep saying I’m going to get out there and do that. I just think it’s freedom, and I want to try it.
What is a favorite food that you often crave?
Right here in our mall we have a Chinese restaurant, and they have sauteed garlic green beans. That’s a food I could eat for the rest of my life.
What is a song that you want to dance to when you hear it, no matter where you are?
Push It by Salt-N-Pepa.