Magical summer

Magical summer of football travels for DiNunzio of the Calgary Rage

As one of the key figures in the Western Women’s Canadian Football League, linebacker Kait DiNuznio of the Calgary Rage enjoyed a summer filled with superlative competition. From attending the IFAF Women’s World Football Championships in Vantaa, Finland to being present at the Womens’ Football Alliance national championship in San Diego, California, it provided her with a lifetime of memories.

Having competed with Team Alberta at the historic 2012 National Women’s Football Championships in Laval, Quebec, DiNunzio helped to make Canadian women’s sporting history. Despite the fact that Alberta did not claim the national title, it helped to validate the impact of the game and its outstanding potential for the future.

Although she was not selected from the group of competing players to be part of the 92-player evaluation roster for the Canadian team competing at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds, an impressive 24 competitors from the WWCFL would comprise the final roster. Considering that the league did not exist during the inaugural Womens’ Worlds in 2010, it is a watershed moment in its nascent history.

“It was an unbelievable experience to be able to go to Finland and be Canada’s “Super Fan”. I did not miss a single practice or opportunity to integrate with the team and show my support for all of the ladies. It was very satisfying to see 24 players from the WWCFL representing women’s football on the international stage.”

Supporting the squad in Finland, it was a tremendous point of pride for DiNunzio to be able to see the WWCFL represented so proudly. Complemented by competitors from the Maritime Women’s Football League and members of the Independent Women’s Football League’s Montreal Blitz franchise,

“Yet, there was something so much more gratifying to see them come together with the ladies from the MWFL and the IWFL and come out as this brilliant, unified team. The Coaches for Team Canada did an amazing job on getting the larger group to come together as a team, dedicated to one common goal, while respecting the sacrifices that each person had made to be there.”

Along with the women of the WWCFL that represented Team Saskatchewan and Team Manitoba at the 2012 Nationals, the bonds of mutual respect and growing friendships with the women of the MWFL have only been made stronger through playing together at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds. As soccer teams from various nations throughout Europe compete in exhibition matches against each other (known as friendlies), such a concept would enrich the development of women’s football in Canada.

“It would be neat to have a WWCFL/MWFL friendly or to take the time to develop a camp for women to attend to share in some best practices and lessons learned in women’s football across the country.”

Following the experience in Finland, DiNunzio traveled to San Diego with her family for a vacation. Through the impact of social media, she would discover that the city was hosting the most prestigious women’s football championship in the United States.

“The WFA title game just happened to be taking place the same weekend Erin and I took our daughter to San Diego for a late summer vacation – I heard about it from a few of the Dallas Diamonds (both representing and supporting Team USA) that I had become friends with in Finland; they were talking about it on Facebook. It was an incredible coincidence.”

Balboa Stadium was the backdrop for an event that featured several familiar faces from the gridion. In addition to both competing teams being undefeated, each had contributed members to the gold medal winning US squad at the IFAF Worlds.

The Dallas Diamonds had six members while the opposing Chicago Force had nine players along with their head coach contribute to the red, white and blue. Of all the plot lines in the game, the biggest was Sami Grisafe competing in her last football game. Having won two IFAF gold medals with the US, she was looking to close her career with an elusive WFA title.

“It was cool to be able to watch Sami (Grisafe) integrated back within her team, leading them to such a big win. That said, my heart ached for the Dallas Diamonds. I knew exactly what they were feeling (reflecting back on the hammering the Rage took from the Lethbridge Steel when we lost 47-0 this summer). It was tough to watch these women who I know are amazing players feeling so frustrated.

You could see division happening on the sidelines; the team at one point was like oil and water. You know, in this sport, I think there’s this raw human feeling of wanting to be alone during times like that to reflect and pep talk yourself & give your head a shake, I’ve been there (“Come on Kait! Where’s your contain?! How did she get outside of you again?!”) … And then there are other times when you just want to rally your team mates to try to find the solution; but how do you do that with only 30-90 seconds in between a play/series?”

On-hand to witness women’s football on one of its biggest stages, DiNunzio also understood the emotional impact which the contest held. She had the opportunity to get acquainted with several Diamonds players that donned the Team USA jersey in Finland. Despite representing opposing nations, the friendships developed showed the welcoming culture of football. Regardless of the diversity of ages and backgrounds, the game helps to make fast friends.

During the regular season, Dallas had the WFA’s second best offense, scoring 411 total points (behind only Chicago). Their defense was third in the league allowing a miniscule 20 points. Diamonds quarterback Brittany Bushman saw limited time with the US, but in the WFA, she ranked in the Top 15 with 698 passing yards, while her passer rating of 140.4 ranked second among all pivots. Jen Welter, a 36 year-old linebacker ranked fifth on Dallas with 26 tackles and 7 tackles for loss. At the 2013 IFAF Worlds, her 8 tackles ranked third on the US squad.

“I wanted nothing more than to go to the sidelines and be that ROWDY fan who was willing to rally them, tell them that they could do it! I could totally feel their aggravation from the stands. Brittany Bushman – QB for Team USA and a truly inspirational friend; you could see the total aggravation she was feeling.

Jen Welter – the 5’3” little powerhouse Team USA middle linebacker was pacing like a tiger in a cage – I could almost read her thoughts! And my DB bud Jersey; you could see her trying hard to calm the waters and bring people back to the one team mentality. It was really intense. I guess that’s football, and why I love it so much. There’s so much passion and desire to come out on top; it’s like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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