Maple leaf pride

Canada proudly represented at inaugural 2014 Women’s World Tackle Football Games

In an initiative aimed to provide development along with a sense of fun and sportsmanship to the progressing sport of female football, USA Football hosted the first-ever Women’s World Tackle Football Games. Staged in the football hotbed of Arlington, Texas from February 13-16, it would prove to be a gathering of world-class athletes and perhaps more importantly, world-class people.

With players from various corners of the world participating, there was a sense of goodwill and sportsmanship throughout. As one of the world’s leading football nations, Canada was proudly represented. Having won the silver at the 2010 and 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds, it was truly a special occasion to share their love of the game.

Among the group of talented and ambitious female Canadians in Arlington, Tanya Henderson of the Edmonton Storm was proud to don the maple leaf on her helmet. One of the rising stars in the Western Women’s Canadian Football League, the opportunity to participate in such a ground breaking and historic event is one that Henderson will cherish,

“The whole experience was absolutely amazing. The energy in the meeting room at the hotel the first day at orientation was absolutely unparalleled. To have girls from all over the United States, Canada and seven other counties (Belgium, UK, Germany, Norway, Finland, Hungary and Australia) around the world was just such a surreal experience. There were girls from all walks of life and experience there with one thing bringing us all together – the love of the sport. “

Joining Henderson at the event included Storm teammate Stephanie Mackie along with some members of the Canadian national team that competed at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds. Of note, two of these members have both established themselves as premier franchise players in the Maritime Women’s Football League. Linebacker Emma Hicks, who recently relocated to Saskatchewan, and Alex Black, quarterback for the Capital Area Lady Gladiators, relished the opportunity to take part in the event. Hicks was looking to sharpen her coaching skills while Black sees the event as a true victory for the game’s future,

“I was surrounded by women who share my love of the game. Women’s football has been breaking barriers over the past decade and this past week in Texas, we have really set the bar for the direction of women’s football. There were nine countries represented.”

As there are few opportunities for female tackle football players from all over the world to come together in an environment where learning, improving and simply getting acquainted with one another are prevalent, the Women’s World Tackle Football Games helped set the stage. In what promises to be one of the signature events in female football, it may not be uncommon if this event proves to be a training ground for developing competitors at future IFAF-sanctioned events.

With many of the top head coaches and positional instructors from the US involved, there was no question that this was an event taken very seriously. Educating players on ways to improve skills while emphasizing safety, the coaching itinerary began with drills and technique teaching. Afterwards, participants were placed onto teams. In an effort to increase player confidence and help provide fairness, players from all countries were mixed together on teams as part of a round robin tournament.

The championship game of the round robin tournament would come down to the Red Team competing against the White Team. Contested at the University of Texas-Arlington’s Maverick Stadium, the White Team would emerge victorious. Ciara Chic of the United States and Tytti Niemi of Finland each scored touchdowns in a 12-0 final.

As Henderson looks forward to bringing the knowledge acquired to the competitive gridiron of the WWCFL, she is also looking at the bigger picture. Beyond the enhancement of her game, she also understands the fight for sporting equality. For Henderson, she is proud to know that Arlington has not only helped write a new and glorious chapter in the sport’s rapid growth, but may help set the foundation for the next generation of players the world.

“The coaching was at a very high level and what I learned is irreplaceable and incomparable to any other experience. For being in its first year, the event far surpassed everything I expected. This event was about fighting for respect. Respect for women’s sports and more so, women’s football.

Fighting for the growth and recognition, and bringing together like-minded individuals with the same goals in mind. It was a solid experience and I am hoping for many more in the years to come. This generation really is the pioneers of women’s football. If this is the beginning, I cannot wait to see what the future has to bring.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Sam Rapoport shaking hands with players from Team Red during the round robin event (Image from USA Football)

Sam Rapoport shaking hands with players from Team Red during the round robin event (Image from USA Football)

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