The Rowdies home field in downtown St. Petersburg was filled with soccer moms on Sunday, November 29, but they didn’t come out in minivans full of kids. These moms were there participating in a match of their own for reality TV.
St. Petersburg moms and sisters-in-law Alicia Shavlan and Dr. Sherri Dunkelberger operate The Weight is Over, a weight loss clinic in South Pasadena. But in their free time, they are also avid soccer players and participants in the show, Soccer Moms of Tampa Bay.
The 26 mothers, raging in age from 22 to 45, will show the television world what it’s like to be a mom while training to be a professional soccer player. Filming lasted over six weeks, but Shavlan and Dunkelberger joined production after the show had been filming for four weeks.
“It was really kind of a chance meeting,” Dunkelberger said describing how they came to join the show. “We met the production manager and she just happened to be talking to us about the show and they needed more players.”
Both Shavlan and Dunkelberger had thought about joining the show when casting calls were held, but initially decided that it would take up too much time.
“[The production manager] signed us up that day and they were flexible in our schedules so we could practice,” Shavlan said. “We had to squeeze in all our patients into two days a week. Our patients were very supportive, but it was three days a week for soccer and two days a week we had to squeeze everyone in.”
According to Dunkelburger, the production team bussed them to and from locations after a full day of filming.
“They had us training in the morning and then depending on the day, we would do different things,” Dunkelberger said. “We played foot golf, that was a lot of fun and on Fridays we had a personal trainer who would just crush us. I’ve never been so sore in my life.”
Family was also a big part of the experience as partners and children rallied around the women to support them.
“It was a fun experience,” said Shavlon’s husband Mike. “We had a ball.”
Others had it a little tougher though, according to Shavlon.
“The husbands had to take care of the children and they’re not used to it,” Shavlon said. “The husbands and the families had to pick up the slack left by the moms. Several of the girls said their husbands were getting a little angry.”
Fortunately, said the sisters-in-law, they live in St. Petersburg where they easily made it home after a long day of training.
“We have teenagers and they’re pretty self-sufficient,” Dunkelburger said. “But there were some women with really young kids and they had to worry about getting babies taken care of.”
Both Shavlon and Dunkelberger have experience playing soccer and other sports. Shavlan, a graduate of Boca Ciega High School in Gulfport, played soccer from 8 to 18. Dunkelberger played basketball in college and picked up soccer later in life. Both play together in co-ed leagues around St. Petersburg.
“It was pretty nice to have [Shavlan] on the field with me,” Dunkelberger said. “I think it worked to our advantage.”
“It upped our comfort level,” Shavlan added.
Filming ended with a final match that took place on the Tampa Bay Rowdies home field at Al Lang Stadium where family and friends filled up the midfield stands.
The women put weeks of preparation on the line and played for $50,000 that will be donated to a charity represented by the Rowdettes, Shavron and Dunkelburger’s team, or the opposition, the Let’s Get Rowdy.
“It was really cool and loud,” Dunkelburger said. “Even on the field, it was hard to talk to each other it was so loud.”
The final match at Al Lang will be aired, as well as the episodes leading up to it, in 2016.
As a nurse at a weight loss clinic, Shavlan thought participating in a reality show that focused on fitness and athletics was a great message to send to their patients.
“I hope it motivates my son to take a risk and step out of the box, but I also hope that it motivates our patients or people who are struggling with weight or self body image to take a chance and push yourself and get out of your comfort zone,” Shavlan said. “Get off the hamster wheel and do something different. Try something new.”