Chan enthusiastic to be part of 2016 Women’s World Football Games

As the Saskatoon Valkyries look to claim their fifth championship in league history, Ehjae Chan hopes to be a key contributor towards such ambitions. Donning number 24 with the green and white, she is a rising star on their linebacking corps. Joined by four of her teammates, along with two other competitors from the Western Women’s Canadian Football League (WWCFL), they were part of the proud Canadian content that participated at the 2016 Women’s World Football Games.

Having also attended the 2015 edition of the Games, akin to fellow WWCFL competitors such as Phelycia Black, Carly Dyck and Melissa Litchfield to name a few, such familiarity certainly brought an increased confidence. Heading into 2016, Chan found that the learning process continued to yield positive results. Suiting up for Team Black at the Games, she aims towards an upward progression in her career as she continues her gridiron endeavors with the Valkyries.

“I definitely felt more prepared for this year’s games. I had a great season last year, and I knew that being at the Games last year was a big part of that. I was excited to continue improving my skills and overall understanding of the game, but I was probably even more excited to reconnect with friends from last year and create new friendships.

In my opinion, the most valuable thing I have received from the Games has been the community of like-minded athletes who are all pressing forward in the same sport, carried by the same momentum, no matter what country or team we are coming from. I have definitely come home this year with an increased sense of confidence as a player and with the feeling that I have something to offer on the field.”

The defining element of this year’s Games consisted of the unprecedented venue. The New Orleans Saints training facility served as the backdrop for a landmark experience defined by empowerment and growth for the game. The first-class treatment and overall feeling of achievement among all the remarkable women that participated at the Games was a proud milestone filled with jubilation,

“It was incredibly emotional to be hosted by the New Orleans Saints. Every break, I was holding back (or trying to hold back) tears. For the first time, someone with great authority in our sport was acknowledging us and telling us that we were worth it. At every turn, Jason Trosclair and everyone at the whole organization made us feel like we were important. I think I can honestly speak for all of us in saying that the Saints gained at least 200 new fans in a week.”

As Chan reflects on the experience of the Games, there may have been an element even more powerful than the privilege of being able to attend an NFL facility. In an event filled with significant emotion, the feeling of acceptance and equality brought with it a sincerity and integrity that only added to the momentum of this event.

Of note, Chan discovered a new ally in the effort to help grow the female game. One of the realities in the revival of female football in the last decade is that the vast majority of coaching positions are still occupied by men. While women are starting to stake their claim in this aspect of the game as well, it is not uncommon that the involvement of women gracing the gridiron is such a nascent concept that some dyed-in-the-wool football aficionados may have difficult accepting their presence. During the Games, one of the male coaches displayed a remarkable honesty by courageously admitting that he had not been a proponent of this concept in its earlier stages,

“Looking back, there were so many incredible moments during this camp. I am not sure why it surprised me to be so emotional at so many times since I had already encountered the intensity of last year’s games. Yet, one moment that was incredibly raw and powerful was when one of our coaches stood in front of us and humbly apologized to us. He told us that he had been one of those people who had actively been against women in football, that he would not have a female on one of his teams.

On that day, he stood in front of us as one of our newer advocates. I know he will be one of our loudest and proudest advocates. This is why we press forward against all odds. This is why we play with determination and focus despite the lack of funding and the lack of opportunities and the lack of recognition.”

As the women of football continue to build on their legacy, the Women’s World Football Games proudly adds to the growing mythology. Chan and her fellow Canadians were part of a unified effort which saw a collective feeling of victory. Gracing the gridiron represents more than a love of athletic competition, it is a powerful movement in sporting equality that gains momentum every time women like Chen don the jersey and wear the helmet.

“We play fiercely to show people that we have something to give and we have a right to play. One by one, we will convert people from standing against us to standing beside us.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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