Story by Jeffrey Landis on 06/06/2019PHILADELPHIA (May 8, 2019) When she's not catching errors in logistics tracking systems, she's catching passes on the gridiron.
Philadelphia native Marrita "Rita" Richardson, an operation supply planning analyst and offloading coordinator who works for the Fleet Outfitting Department of Naval Supply Systems Command Weapon Systems Support (NAVSUP WSS) in Philadelphia, knows how important it is to stay engaged and to have drive and determination to succeed in life.
"I have just always played football since I was like seven or eight years old," said Richardson, a self-proclaimed "tom boy." "Football is something that I excelled in and really enjoyed. I remember my father complimenting me on my spiral when I was about 10, and that really made me confident. I think the biggest aspect of it for me is the activity and camaraderie of the sport."
The 5-foot-7-inch wide-out plays co-ed Tag League football for the Philadelphia Sports Leagues (PSL), which provides recreational sports leagues, tournaments and social events for more than 50,000 adults across the Philadelphia area. PSL has more than 20 different leagues, with sports ranging from basketball, bowling, field hockey, lacrosse, and even giant beer pong.
The Tag League is a two-hand touch league with a three-female minimum on the eight-person roster. To ensure co-ed participation during games, a female player must be the operative player on offense at least once every three plays, such as playing quarterback, as the intended receiver, the running back, etc. In her fourth year, Richardson was drawn to the teamwork, competitive spirit and adrenaline rush of competitive sports.
"As a girl playing football, you kind of stand out, but that didn't bother me," said the 31-year-old Richardson of her ambition to play a male dominated sport. "So long as I was keeping up and competing I always fit right in. On a team, you learn that everyone has a role, and I like that PSL encourages women to be involved. I think women are oftentimes underestimated for their abilities, and I always encourage other women who have that competitive edge, drive and determination to come out and just go for it.' You just never know."
Approaching the line, she points at the ref to make sure she's behind scrimmage. She setshut, hut, hike! With a quick juke toward a slant route, she goes long. Quarterback heaves the pigskin. Spectators gasp. Eyes follow the ball as if it's suspended in air, until she rips the ball out of the air and scores! Easy touchdown. For Richardson, that's a routine occurrence.
"I don't consider myself the fastest person out there or girl for that matter but I am fast enough to break coverage and get open. It helps that the defense doesn't expect a girl to go long for pass and actually catch it." Touchdown. End zone celebration ensues.
So what advice does Richardson have for women who might have hesitations about getting involved?
"Be excited to be the first to do something," said Richardson, recalling her childhood with her Navy mom as the only little girl on the block playing pick-up games of all different sports. "Of course I was nervous when I first went to PSL to check it out. But I went, I did it, and I really look forward to it. From that point, my roommate stepped up to play, another colleague of mine stepped up and did it, so you just never know what kind of positive influence you're going to have on someone."
Richardson has been with NAVSUP WSS for a little more than five years and currently works for N4 Allowancing. As an offloading coordinator, she is responsible for moving excess material to customers who need it, saving the government millions of dollars each year. For instance, if a deployed aircraft carrier reports unused aircraft parts and material they don't need, NAVSUP WSS can reutilize that material by coordinating its delivery from the carrier's next port visit to an air station that might need the material.
When it comes to mixing work with play, Richardson said that you have to bring that same competitive spirit and aggressiveness to work sometimes.
"You always have to stay on your game and in this business errors can be costly," she said. "You bring your best game whether it's work or play. But I think the passion and drive starts at an early age, so I always try to tell kids I come in contact with to just get outside,' go do something and be part of a team. You need that exposure to see and experience your full potential. How do you know what you're fully capable of doing unless you try? We have won championships in our league, and it feels amazing."
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NAVSUP WSS is one of eleven commands under Commander, NAVSUP. Headquartered in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and employing a diverse, worldwide workforce of more than 22,500 military and civilian personnel, NAVSUP's mission is to provide supplies, services, and quality-of-life support to the Navy and joint warfighter. Learn more at www.navsup.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/navsup and https://twitter.com/navsupsyscom.