Maritime legacy

Coleman’s legacy in Maritime Football helped to shape the game

As one of the greatest defensive players in the history of the Maritime Women’s Football League, Julia Coleman left a legacy that is unmatched. Named an MWFL All-Star on Defense for seven consecutive seasons (2005-2011), she would debut on the gridiron at the tender age of seventeen.

Raised in Fredericton, New Brunswick, the interest in football came through friends and family. It would prove to be the launching pad that would see Coleman eventually compete on the international stage.

“I got introduced to football at a very young age.  My neighbours ran the football program in Fredericton, which got my family involved.  One day, my brother’s flag football team was short players, the coaches asked if I wanted to step in and play for the game. I ended up finishing the season with them, because I enjoyed it so much.

The opportunities to get involved in the football community let me stay playing the game throughout elementary, middle, and high school.  I also got to referee the younger kids, letting me learn the game inside and out.”

With Fredericton serving as the home for the MWFL’s Capital Area Lady Gladiators, Coleman would emerge as their first defensive superstar. Along with the likes of Katie Archibald and Heather LeBlanc, they would be some of the most dominant forces on defense during the league’s nascent years.

In addition to her presence on defense, she would also find time to become involved in league activities off the field. This would provide her with opportunities to hone her leadership skills.

“I volunteered in organizing events for the MWFL – these opportunities make the community stronger.”

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of competing with Capital Area was the opportunity to grow as a player and a person with one of her best friends, Alex Black. Like Coleman, Black has also earned seven consecutive All-Star nods (2006-2012), making them the only players in MWFL history to accomplish the feat. As a side note, Lisa Harlow was also a seven-time selection but not in consecutive years.

“I also made great friends playing when I was growing up.  Alex Black and I played on the same team when we were younger, then got to play together again on the Lady Gladiators, and later help represent Team Canada in Sweden.”

The opportunity to be part of the inaugural IFAF Women’s Worlds was a watershed moment in Coleman’s storied career. A remarkable moment in women’s sporting history, Coleman and Black would help Canada to a silver medal. Of note, they were two of an astounding 21 members of the MWFL that donned the Canadian jersey in 2010. Statistically, Coleman would log 4.5 total tackles and recover a fumble in a Canada Day win over Germany.

In addition to her multiple All-Star nods, Coleman was honored as the MWFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Back in 2007 and Most Outstanding Defensive Player in 2008.  While those accomplishments are testament to her talent and ability, she is quick to acknowledge the contributions of others towards making her success a reality.

“I am so proud of my football accomplishments.  I have had excellent coaching throughout the years, and amazing support from my teammates. We always encouraged each other to push ourselves as far as we could. It’s great knowning that the hardwork paid off!”

Having had the opportunity to compete alongside the likes of Black, Lindsay Anderson, Natasha Canning, Courtney Hallett, Jessica Marin and Robyn Neill among others, it would contribute to a highly treasured moment in her career. While Coleman was part of the first league championship in franchise history, it would prove to have a positive impact on her in several ways. In discussing the favourite moment of her career, she would mention,

“This one is so easy for me – 2006, winning the Maritime Championship.  It was my second year on the team, but the ladies really clicked. It showed me how having a team that bonded well together, could play amazing together.

Knowing each other off the field gave everyone a sense of responsibility towards the team, and made words of encouragement that meant so much more coming from a teammate who was a friend.  This led me to change my leadership style off the field.  I try to reach out to all teammates, especially the new ones, and establishing a bond that was strong on and off the field.”

Having relocated to Ontario, Coleman’s career has temporarily stopped. Only 25 years old, there are unlimited possibilities ahead for her. Considering that Lisa Klaverkamp and Amy Mohr were both over 45 when they competed at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds, Coleman is far from finished. While the largest province in Canada has yet to develop a competitive women’s league, it would benefit greatly from Coleman’s presence if one were to exist.

Although the opportunity to compete on the gridiron is not viable at this moment, Coleman had an opportunity to celebrate her career. With the 2013 season signifying the MWFL’s tenth anniversary season, it was a milestone that Coleman had the opportunity to share in. As part of league celebrations, an All-Decade Team was named. With a formal ceremony having taken place during MWFL championship weekend, it would be a special occasion for Coleman to revisit past glories and reacquaint herself with the other remarkable women who have helped build women’s football in Canada.

“Being named to the MWFL All-Decade Team was an honor. I recently moved outside of Atlantic Canada, and currently do not have the opportunity to play football.  It was great watching the ladies play on the championship weekend, and reconnecting with them at the banquet afterwards.  Getting this recognition reminded me of my love of this game. I hope someday to help establish a women’s football team in Ontario and to offer other girls the same opportunities I had.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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