Inspiring the future

Alex Black

Players unite with help of former Blitz legend for ground breaking event

As the inaugural Women’s World Tackle Football Games in Arlington, Texas brought together players from around the world, the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s finest brought with it great personal and athletic reward. The involvement of both Canadian players and coaches wove a unique tapestry, indicating that the willingness to learn and desire to improve shall continue to build a strong future for the game.

Stephanie Bosse, a 2012 All-Star selection on defense in the Maritime Women’s Football League was among the Canadian players in attendance. A contributor to the Capital Area Lady Gladiators MWFL title in 2013, she was also joined by teammate, starting quarterback and two-time Canadian national team member, Alex Black.

With the 2014 edition of the MWFL season looming soon, Bosse and Black are eager to defend their league title, with hopes of repeating. For Bosse, the opportunity to sharpen her skills and gain an even greater understanding of the game has provided her with the confidence to reach newer heights.

“Texas was an amazing and unforgettable experience! I have grown as a player and look forward to sharing my newly acquired skills with my team.

A total of nine countries were represented in Texas and every single woman in this camp was passionate about the sport. As a BRSS student in the management stream, I feel this event was a great success.”

Equally important for the players in attendance such as Bosse and Black are the chances for mentorship. Prominent American players including Callie Brownson and Donna Wilkinson, members of the 2013 IFAF World Championship team, were among the participants helping to provide inspiration and motivation for many promising players.

As one of the most accomplished and decorated players in the history of women’s football in the United States, Donna Wilkinson was proud to share her love of the game. One of the faces of the DC Divas franchise, Wilkinson was the first player in United States women’s football history to rush for 1,000 yards in one season.

The opportunity for the players in attendance to share in the knowledge of a player such as Wilkinson is the equivalent of a modern-day baseball player learning from the likes of Lou Gehrig or Ted Williams. While the inaugural Women’s World Tackle Football Games provided many learning experiences, it was definitely a positive one for Wilkinson,

“Alongside winning two Gold Medals and playing with the best female football players in the World, this was one of my most memorable football moments. The women from around the world that love and play this game are amazing.

They deserve respect and attention and are making a difference for women to follow their dreams in all corners of the world. I am grateful to USA Football for supporting these women and bringing some of the most talented coaches out to teach the game of football.”

Brownson, a teammate of Wilkinson on the DC Divas and Team USA’s gold medal winning contingent in 2013 shared similar sentiments. The opportunity for her to serve as a mentor and friend was enhanced by the way the players not only shared a love of the game and a desire to improve, but an instant chemistry which resulted in a terrific outcome.

“My favorite thing was seeing women from 9 countries come together almost instantly all for the love of the sport, as well as the overall improvement in skill of every athlete who attended.”

Under the strong leadership of Sam Rapoport, the Director for Football Development at USA Football, the event was an unparalleled success. Viewing this as an occasion to give players the chance to learn from the worlds finest, she reflects on the opportunities provided,

“It was an incredible experience for female tackle football players from around the globe to be taught the fundamentals of the sport from USA Football’s top coaches, including both former NFL players and current Heads Up Football Master Trainers.

In addition, it was a unique experience for the female tackle football players who have very little experience in the sport to learn from U.S. Women’s National Team players who participated in the Women’s World Championship last summer in Finland. These players acted as player-coaches for many participants, which created a very cohesive spirit to the event.”

Educated at McGill University, Rapoport was a former quarterback for the Montreal Blitz, who gained internet fame as a player for an explosive 88-yard touchdown run against the New York Sharks. Before joining USA Football as a Senior Manager for Flag and Female Development in 2010, she was also a Youth Football Program Coordinator with the National Football League.

In 2009, she earned the NFL Commissioner’s Award for Innovation. This was attributed to her superlative work in creating and developing the NFL Girls Flag Football Leadership Program. Her accomplishments and leadership attributes were a source of inspiration for Black, the most decorated player in the history of the MWFL.

“I am very thankful to know that such strong women like Sam Rapoport and others are the pushing force to get women involved in this great game either as coaches or players. I felt my knowledge of the game improved as well as my skills as a quarterback, as I had great coaches guiding me throughout the camp. I cannot wait for this to happen again next year!” noted Black.

The efforts of women such as Brownson, Wilkinson and Rapoport were not lost on Bosse either. Finding influence and drive, Bosse was very pleased with the outcome of the event in Arlington and the efforts involved making this a reality.

“Football USA put a lot of work and time into this camp and it truly showed. Sam Rapoport, who previously played football for the Montreal Blitz, was able to show her love for football. She is a role model and I hope to someday make a difference in the sport of women’s football.

Along with Elizabeth Faust and Frank, Sam was part of the main organizers. They chose very talented and knowledgeable coaches in order to give us the best of the best.”

Sam Rapoport providing instruction to a player at the inaugural Women’s World Football Games (Image from USA Football)

Sam Rapoport providing instruction to a player at the inaugural Women’s World Football Games (Image from USA Football)

For Rapoport and all the individuals involved with USA Football that worked tirelessly, the results speak for themselves. With borders slowly dissolving as the game truly becomes more global in scope, a weekend in Arlington not only built on the momentum gained at the 2013 IFAF Worlds in Vantaa, Finland, but created a foundation upon which female players can approach the game with a newfound confidence. In assembling a dedicated group of assiduous people whose acumen and love of the game helped make the event truly world class, it is testament to what makes Rapoport one of the most inspiring women in female sport.

“I believe every football player who stepped onto our fields became better, safer, smarter and a more sound football player. These women took the fundamentals, tips, techniques and drills that they learned home to their respective countries to share that knowledge with their football-playing peers.

There were incredible bonds formed that could only be fostered by playing this incredible sport together. These are football friendships that will last a lifetime and help us grow the game internationally for years to come.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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