Black’s experience at Women’s World Football Games reflects its growing legacy

Among the proud number of wondrous women who call the Saskatoon Valkyries their club team, Phelycia Black brought that same prairie pride to the third Women’s Winter Games. Although this year’s Games were Black’s second experience at the event, there was a significant change compared to her first attendance in 2015. A 5-foot-1 football linebacker with the heart of a giant, Black is also a hero off the field, having served 13 years in Canada’s Armed Forces, which also included a tour with the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan during summer of 2008.

From the outset, Black definitely had more confidence as a player, an element that was also attributed to a season spent with the Valkyries, there was also a different approach. Having first graced the gridiron as a defensive back, Black made the conversion to linebacker in Saskatoon.

“Going into this year’s Games, I did have a little more confidence, and was a bit more comfortable as I knew many of the women from the previous year. Last year, I travelled alone and did not know anyone.

Sam Rapoport and Elizabeth Faust has a great mentor and mentee program with the games that allows veterans to lead brand new players to the world games and therefore creates strong bonds within the those players. Last year I came to the Games as a defensive back and this year I came as a linebacker. Was a bit of a change but the coaching staff are amazing.”

Meeting Dr. Jen Welter at the 2016 Women's World Football Games (Image supplied by Phelycia Black)

Meeting Dr. Jen Welter at the 2016 Women’s World Football Games (Image supplied by Phelycia Black)

On the topic of mentors, Black found limitless inspiration in the presence of those who spoke, and others that coached. Perhaps the most treasured moment involved the chance to meet Dr. Jen Welter, who spoke at the event.

Having emerged as a household name for her impact as the first female coach in the NFL, Welter is a mesmerizing personality whose charisma and maturity hold the same intrigue akin to Vince Lombardi. Such an encounter represented a seminal moment in Black’s aspiring gridiron endeavors.

“Meeting Dr. Jen Welter was a phenomenal experience, not only is she a great advocate for women in sports but she is a trailblazer. She sees the potential in the athletes and is relentless to break our bad habits and perfect the way we play. Having her contribute to the Games was like having your role model next to you. For many it was an opportunity that was once in a lifetime.”

An added bonus for Black and the other participants at the Women’s World Football Games was the opportunity to make history. Of note, the Games were held at an NFL facility for the first time in its history. Hosted at the New Orleans Saints’ training facilities, it added a growing feeling of importance and relevance to the gridiron game.

Undoubtedly, the graciousness of the Saints organization was a defining aspect to the Games. In reflecting on the greatness of the Games, Black is quick to acknowledge that such an event is not about competition or one upsmanship. The essence of the Games is defined by friendship and community.

“There were a lot of favourite moments of the event. From how amazing the members of the New Orleans Saints staff were so welcoming and amazing hosts, to how every player became each other’s best friends. Yet, I would have to say my absolute favourite was at the end of the final game where everyone started singing our last year’s theme song “Lean on Me.”

Suiting up for Team Black at the 2016 Women's World Football Games (Image supplied by Phelycia Black)

Suiting up for Team Black at the 2016 Women’s World Football Games (Image supplied by Phelycia Black)

Black truly represents what makes the Games so great, embodying its empowering spirit. Having first attended the Games as a novice player, without a club team, Black not only became an avid pupil of the game, keen to grace the gridiron and display her newly acquired skills, she quickly found a second family.

With other members of the Saskatoon Valkyries, Black not only found fast friends, she would be encouraged to don the helmet and wear the team colors. The fact that this turning point in her career took place at the Games represents one of the event’s lasting legacies, building bridges, creating friendships and emphasizing teamwork.

“Last year I met some of the Valkyries at the Games and they recruited me to play for them. Coming to the Games this year with them was perfect. We had a great crew and rented a house. We had invited other players in the WWCFL stay with us and I would not have changed the experience for the world. Canada house is always the best place to stay (smiles).”

“All other quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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