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Lady Red Wolves chief executive Gretchen Hummel is the strength of Chattanooga women’s football

Before senior high school football season in 1995, Gretchen Hummel was promoted to the defensive end of the Grace Academy formation.

Whatever the strategy that influenced this coaching decision, the outstanding player quickly realized that he could use the change of position to his advantage by regularly intercepting the ball from behind and driving the ball down the field to score or set up teammates.

Even in those days, Hummel found a way to make the most of a situation that wasn’t always ideal for her.

In a way, the Chattanooga women’s football community is indebted to the ingenuity of a woman who can be considered one of the sports queens in Scenic City. Hummel (formerly Cross) used this Grace success to become Chattanooga’s first football player at the University of Tennessee. She was successful there, starting 73 of 74 career games and finishing with 16 goals (still eighth all-time for UTC) and seven assists.

After a few professional football games, family life came. But as soon as she became a mother, she had a desire to influence the sport when she became the head coach at her alma mater, where she helped Grace win three district championships, two regional titles and five single state appearances in nine seasons.

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Chattanooga Lady Red Wolves CEO Gretchen Hummel

The Chattanooga Football Club began in 2009 as an amateur men’s team, and after seeing the city’s hype for higher levels of football than prep and college, Hummel wanted the women to have some of the same benefits.

When she was younger, she had to travel out of town for training. All of a sudden, the CFC Women’s Academy came into being, thanks in no small part to Hummel’s help putting together the CFC women’s team. When that team nearly disbanded after its first season in 2014, it was Hummel, along with teammate Cristina Heredia, who fought to keep it going, with Hummel moving from player to general manager.

The women’s team was successful, winning a conference championship in 2018, but when the Chattanooga Red Wolves were founded later that year to start play in 2019, Hummel responded to the pro club’s call to help form the Lady Red Wolves. They initially competed in the Women’s Premier League, winning two league titles, before moving to the USL W league this year, where Chattanooga currently sits second in the South Central Division standings with a 4-1-2 record.

And she’s all in business: Hummel, general manager and president of the women’s team, handles many operations during matchday, even sits in midfield and keeps statistics during home matches at the CHI Memorial Stadium. During the summer, she and her family regularly host team members from other cities so that they have somewhere to stay.

“It’s nice to follow someone who’s good at football and paving the way for women’s sports in Chattanooga, but it’s even easier to follow someone who genuinely cares about it,” CFC quarterback Anna Lanter said recently.

Lanter then told the story of Hummel sending her flowers after her grandparents died.

“She invests in all the girls she wants to influence,” Lanter said, “and it’s such a blessing.”

The last few years have been a time of growth and change for the local football scene, with the arrival of the Red Wolves followed by the move of men from the CFC to the professional ranks in 2020. Although the CFC has not fielded a women’s team in the last three years. , he returned this season and competes in the Women’s Premier League Southeast Conference.

All of a sudden, there are two professional women’s soccer teams in the area, each of which now has development programs for younger players, including Hummel’s two children, 13-year-old Dallas and 11-year-old Fergie.

“I just think it’s fantastic that women’s sports are supported by whoever they are,” Hummel said. “There are a lot more women like me who love football and want to keep playing after college and just love doing it.

“I felt it was something important for our community. This is important for the women around me who are looking for these opportunities and love doing it. Someone told me to focus on the big stuff, because you might lose focus on the little things. Women’s football is on the rise in Chattanooga and that’s a very good thing and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Contact Gene Henley at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.

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