Fostering team building

WWCFL: Spartan Sprint fosters spirit of sportsmanship and team building for Calgary Rage players

Although the WWCFL closes the chapter on the 2013 season, the off-season brings with it many opportunities for team building. One such event occurred on August 17 as five members of the Calgary Rage participated in the Spartan Sprint. A blend of rookies and veterans, their determination and willingness to help motivate each other was a key aspect of this endeavor.

Having logged her first career interception during the 2013 season, Connie Fekete was one of the five fantastic football players that took on the challenge of completing the race. One of the most charismatic members of the team, her participation truly helped to incorporate an element of fun and play during a day filled with many unique challenges.

“The Spartan Sprint was one of the most amazing team-building experiences I have ever been involved with. I raced with four of my Calgary Rage teammates; Amanda McKenna, Esther Hong, Ferne Lavers and Whitney Issik. We are quite a range of ages and fitness levels, and yet we encouraged and helped one another through the whole event.”

Part of a series of Spartan Races (which also includes the Super Spartan, an eight-mile race, and the Spartan Beast, coming in at 12 miles), the Super Sprint is a three-mile race. There are also time-trial obstacle courses which are a mile in length. Founded in 2001 by Peak Races, all finishers receive a medal of accomplishment.

Sometimes the strongest factor in team-building is seeing the character that others show. The ability to help others in need during any struggle shows a compassion that motivates and cultivates the drive needed to win a championship. Perhaps the most endearing aspect of the event was the feeling of friendship among the five that shown through. It was one that Fekete remarked,

“What really amazed me was how my teammates stepped up to help complete strangers conquer obstacles. That type of team attitude really makes me proud to call them sisters.”

While the events are physically demanding and challenging, the ability to overcome them defines the character and determination of these five competitors. The drive to succeed and the motivation to break through is what make these women proud members of the Calgary Rage and the WWCFL.

Second-generation star Whitney Issik is one of the longest tenured members of the Rage that participated in the event. With her experience and acumen on the gridiron, the opportunity to spend an off-season activity bonding with some of the newer faces on the team was one that supplied the defensive back with enjoyment.

“It was an awesome team experience. I could not and would not do that race without a team. You depend on each other on the football field – each to do our individual jobs and also for play support (calling crack, gang tackling, blocking etc). Yet for this race, you really have to physically depend on each other to complete some of the challenges and for encouragement.”

As one of the participating rookies in the Spartan Sprint, defensive back Amanda McKenna is one of the building blocks for the future of the franchise. With great maturity and an outlook defined by grace, McKenna drew parallels between the football field and the obstacle course.

“This was an excellent team building experience, from cheering each other on and literally pushing each other through obstacles to helping complete burpee penalties.”

Also known as squat thrusts, burpee penalties are issued when participants are unable to complete an obstacle.  As the exercise is completed in four steps, their original name was four-count Burpee. The obstacles vary from activites such as crawling underneath barb wire and climbing a wall to carrying an object (like a tire or sandbag). Another is the grueling Gladiator Arena, where participants must pass through gladiators who try to knock down their opponents, the obstacles vary.

“My team mates gave me the strength and encouragement to keep pushing even when I thought I had nothing left, it is the same feeling on the field. We grow together during the season and this only helped to make us that much closer and stronger as individuals, team mates and friends,” said McKenna.

One of the few women to play in the WWCFL and the MWFL, linebacker Ferne Lavers saw the benefits in participating. Off the field, she enjoys a friendship with McKenna which helped in recruiting her to the Rage. Having waged the wars on the gridiron together during the past season, the experience of helmets clashing in the trenches provided very valuable lessons about the essence of teamwork.

“Most definitely this was a team building experience! We are already close, having experienced football together. Spartan helped strengthen our bond as teammates. I would not have made it past some of the obstacles if these ladies had not literally hauled me over!”

Like Lavers, Esther Hong was also a firm believer in the elements of teamwork, such as support and respect, in ensuring the completion of the various obstacles. For the rookie running back, she has subscribed to the notion of working together as a cohesive unit. “I could not have gotten through some of the obstacles without my teammates. I knew before going in that we would be pulling each other through. We start as a team and end as a team!”

The key element in taking part in the Spartan Sprint reflected one of the motivational factors in suiting up for the Calgary Rage; fun. The enjoyment was certainly the highlight for these athletic pioneers. With mud serving as an ingredient in numerous obstacles, it helped to channel a sense of childhood fun while providing a sense of rejuvenation.

“The whole event was so much fun. I think my favourite part would be any of the mud obstacles; it is not every day you get the chance to get covered from head to toe in mud! It also felt good to jump in the muddy water and get cooled off a bit,” remarked Lavers.

In discussing what she enjoyed most about the Sprint, Hong borrowed a page from Lavers and also mentioned the mud. “The whole experience was super fun but doing this with my teammates made it a whole lot more fun. We bathed in mud, baked in the sun and lifted each other up, literally! (laughs)

We shared the load in penalties and cheered each other on. Most importantly we stuck together! I am already looking forward to next year’s race!”

Whitney Issik, whose sons are also assistant coaches with the Rage shares Hong’s sentiments about competing again next summer. “The most fun part was sharing some laughs, taking pictures with each other and most of all finishing!  A great bonding experience and I would definitely do it again.”

For Amanda McKenna, the event was not her first off-season activity which involved her teammates. Along with Fekete and Lavers, the trio has donned their Rage jerseys while roaming the sidelines at home games for the CFL Calgary Stampeders. The Sprint continued a memorable offseason, “The overall race was a great experience and I can’t wait to do it again. Sharing it with my teammates and finishing together made it all worthwhile. We laughed, we struggled, and together we conquered.”

With 4,595 registered participants, the quickest male finished in 0:26:22, while the fastest female was 0:34:09. The group of remarkable Rage competitors finished at 1:26:49, which Fekete earning a ranking of 2,491.

Like McKenna’s teammates, their participation in the Sprint reflected their on-field performance with the Rage; an effort defined by sportsmanship and team spirit which knew no boundaries.  As Fekete reflects on her participation in the grueling event, surmounting the obstacles and crossing the finish line fulfilled the accomplishment of a goal.

“The most fun thing about the event was finishing!! I am particularly proud of scaling the eight foot wall on my first try, though! It was an amazing feeling to jump over the fire pit, run through the gladiators and cross the finish line with my Rage sisters. I will never forget it,” said Fekete.

As the Rage work towards earning their first WWCFL championship, the Spartan Sprint may stand as a catalyst that helped strengthen their bonds of friendship.  Their participation in the event was a very valuable lesson in seeing how the strengthened bonds of friendship can transform contenders into champions. In the hearts and minds of fans, these five classy women are already champions.

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Advocating for football prospects one story at a time.

Leave a Reply