Darnelle Bernemann, a hardworking Abbotsford mother of two, is geared up and stripping down for the kickoff to the Canadian Lingerie Football League's inaugural season on Saturday.
The LFL features attractive female athletes playing seven-on-seven tackle football garbed in bras, panties and garter belts.
Shoulder and kneepads and hockey-style helmets are their sole salute to safety.
Wherever the LFL touches down, with Abbotsford being no exception, the league draws controversy.
But Bernemann, who plays defensive and tight end, isn't focused on the firestorm debate but on football and the upcoming game.
"What isn't going through my mind? I'm nervous, excited, anxious . . . I don't fully know what to expect," the 27-year-old player said, admitting she's feeling the pressure.
"I don't know about the 3,000 people in the stands, but I want to impress my friends and family first and foremost."
Her Abbotsford-based team, the BC Angels, is hosting the Regina Rage for the first game of the season at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre on Aug. 25.
"[The Rage] quarterback is from the LFL in the States and it will be interesting to play against her," said Bernemann.
"She's one of the best in the league, but I've got confidence that our quarterback will be able to go head to head with her."
Bernemann - who has no football experience but participated in sports all her life and played on the UFV volleyball team eight years ago - said her interest in the LFL was sparked when she heard the league was coming to town.
She concedes that, in small part, the attention and the controversy was a draw, but it was the opportunity to play football that attracted her.
"Honestly, it's the physical contact. The chance to play a physical sport that only guys get to play," said Bernemann, who is sporting an impressive variety of bruises from practice.
"Maybe the media aspect a little bit, but I just wanted to play football, bottom line . . . and there wasn't a league I could join growing up."
After tryouts for the BC Angels in the spring, the team went through a couple of training camps and has been practising three times a week.
There's lots of cardio and drills and practising patterns and plays, said Bernemann.
"The greatest athletic challenge I've been facing is the running aspect . . . it's just such a fast-paced game."
Bernemann has the support of friends, family and her husband, but she understands the LFL has its critics.
"People get really wrapped up in the fact it's called 'lingerie' football. But you can't judge it on its name without seeing it," she said.
The short shorts and low-cut sports bra players wear aren't more revealing than the garb worn in beach volleyball.
"The only lingerie aspect is the garter belt. [The uniform] just doesn't faze me."
The other contentious point, that LFL players are deemed amateur athletes by the league and don't get paid to play the game, does bother Bernemann a little.
"When people ask me 'where does all the money go,' I don't have an answer for that," she said.
"But I understand it's the first year and this is kind of a test to see if we can bring it."
But her first desire is to play the game.
"If [LFL Canada] turns out to be huge . . . it would be nice to be paid, but it's not my priority."
But juggling practices with her two jobs as a server and a teaching assistant and her two sons, both under the age of five, hasn't been easy, she said, given her husband works a full-time job too.
"It's been stressful but worth it," she said.
"My husband is supportive and proud of me and . . . as long as he's on board, I'll continue to play."
She suggests critics of the LFL come out to watch a game before making a final judgment.
"Come for the sport and entertainment," said Bernemann.
"People are worried about the league exploiting women for their looks. If that's your opinion, fair enough, I won't judge you, but don't judge me because I want to play."
- The LFL BC Angels host the Regina Rampage at 8 p.m. on Saturday at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre, 33800 King Rd., Abbotsford.
A free tailgate village featuring a barbecue, football challenges, video gaming lounge, a beer garden, live music and DJs will open at 5 p.m. on Saturday prior to the game at the AESC.
For more information, go to abbotsfordcentre.ca.