Building momentum

Second edition of Women’s World Football Games builds on momentum

With the football hot spot of Tampa, Florida serving as the backdrop, women from over a dozen countries, including Canada, had the chance to grow as football players while making new friends. The second annual Women’s World Football Games was defined by unity, love of the game and sportsmanship, all in the interest of helping to grow the female game.

Former Montreal Blitz quarterback Samantha Rapoport was one of the architects in ensuring that the Women’s World Football Games became a reality. Currently in a management capacity with USA Football, her influence was essential. In reflecting on the 2015 edition of the Games, Rapoport certainly observed a difference compared to 2014,

“USA Football’s Women’s World Football Games doubled in participation from year 1 to year 2. This year, we created a mentor program where players that were newer to the game were paired up with veterans so they could take advantage of all the football knowledge available to them. We also hosted group and team dinners this year and had a few more NFL coaches present.”

She was also joined by some very accomplished women who have donned the Team USA jersey at the IFAF Women’s Worlds, the biggest stage in the game. Among them was two-time world champion and DC Divas legend Donna Wilkinson.

Considering that she has also served as a guest lecturer on women’s sport, while having the opportunity to meet some of the real women in softball that inspired the hit movie, “A League of Their Own”, there is no question that her decade-long impact in the game established her as one of the ambassadors at the event. Articulate and graceful, Wilkinson’s attendance was one defined by encouragement and empowerment,

“The Women’s World Football Games II was a powerful event in the development of women’s football worldwide. We learned, worked and grew together and became a global football family. As we formed bonds with no borders, I could see the greater implications of a unified movement of women standing strong together.

It was the collective power of this group of women stood out to me the most. Women’s football is a voice for change, and with the support of USA Football, will continue to impact women at an even greater level. I am grateful to be a part of this football journey.”

Multi-sport star Alex Black, a two-time member of Team Canada at the IFAF Women’s Worlds was among one of the more established Canadian players participating at the event. Quite possible the greatest quarterback in the history of the Maritime Women’s Football League, she was surrounded by other QB’s hoping to one day emulate her success,

“The quarterback group that I spent all my time with was all women from other countries. We were all there as one team and to learn from each other.”

Although Black is very humble about her impact as a role model among Canadian women that participated at the event, she is very proud of her involvement there. Of note, she is very optimistic about the new knowledge acquired and the chance to share it at the numerous levels of football that she is involved with in New Brunswick,

“Maybe not so much a role model when I was there, but more so when I got back to my home team. I definitely plan on passing my knowledge to my teammates as well as the high school girls football team I help coach. I was surrounded by so many talented women from several different countries.

Among the other women of the MWFL that participated included Sara Gray, also a member of the Lady Glads, one of the most successful clubs in league history. Having played with the likes of Kris Chatterton and Robyn Neill (also Team Canada alum), while donning the club’s colours, it has only served to strengthen her love of the game.

“An event like Women’s World Football Games II is so important to the development of women’s tackle football across the world. We were taken back to basics and really learned some strong fundamentals to the game. The exposure to the sport was amazing.

Not a lot of people realize how big women’s tackle football is. This camp brings us to the foreground and let’s us prove how much we love the game; how seriously we all take it. There were 150 women from 16 countries and when we played the games on Sunday you would never know that we had all just met four days before. It was such an amazing experience.”

Having emerged from the event with an even stronger confidence, a key moment for Gray was the realization that the game continues to enjoy unprecedented growth. For Gray, the chance to participate in said growth and play alongside women from the world over provided her with a cherished moment that shall stand as one of the hallmarks in her promising career.

“The most memorable experience of the WWFG ll was when it hit me that 150 women from teams around the world love football as much as I do. Its an unforgettable experience and a feeling of togetherness and pride to be a part of this event and know that we are helping to shape the future for women’s football.”

For Rapoport, a remarkable woman who is a football hero on both sides of the border, her involvement in the WWFG may be one of her greatest legacies. The culmination of her dedication is certainly defined by Wilkinson’s statement of “bonds with no borders.” In collaborating together, it is the most essential way that the female game can grow. Among the great moments that occurred at this year’s highly successful event, one satisfying moment for Rapoport certainly provides profound perspective on its importance,

“We hosted a classroom session with a Team USA alum member, HK Pederson, who performed a spoken word poem about what the game means to women. She wrote it using passages sent into her from women all over the world.

Two of our coaches (one of whom played in the NFL) then followed her with poems of their own. The game affects these women in such a profound way and I feel very fortunate to be able to put 150 players in a position to experience it at this level.”

Photo credit: Rebecca Gitlitz

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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