Niamh Bermingham a key contributor for Halifax Xplosion’s bright future

As one of the veterans on the Halifax Xplosion, Niamh Bermingham is helping to shape the squad’s championship ambitions. A proud member of the lineman corps, she has seen the Xplosion’s efforts over the seasons to become an elite team. During the past season, she helped the squad defeat league powerhouse (and eventual champion) Lady Gladiators.

Like so many women that grace the gridiron of tackle football, the introduction of the sport came through a friend. In the case of Bermingham, her introduction came via Linsday Bennett. Like Bermnigham, Bennett would also blossom into a key veteran.

“I was never really was interested in football before I played. A friend of mine, Lindsay Bennett who had played for a year prior to me joining, asked if I would be interested in playing. I honestly did not know anything about football. I had never watched a game or knew any of the rules.

The first football game I ever watched was the Super Bowl my first year. That was just to get a basic idea of the game. However, even when it came to actually playing, I still did not know any of the rules. I thought we had four chances to get a touchdown, not four chances to get a first down. My first series ever, I started running off the field because I thought we were done. That just shows how little I knew.”

Once she learned the game, Bermingham proved to become an invaluable member of the Xplosion. Testament to her talent was being named the Xplosion’s Lineman of the Year every year from 2010 to 2012.

“It is a real honor being named Lineman of the Year. Each year I really did not expect it. I knew what my job was to do, and I guess I was doing my job right (laughs).”

As the Xplosion look to create a championship culture, a key aspect of the team’s ambitions is its role in becoming a responsible partner in the community. Proudly serving as Nova Scotia’s only franchise in the MWFL, introducing themselves to sports fans and others in Halifax is the next step.

A breakthrough moment for the franchise came in the participation of the Halifax Pride Parade in 2013. With the greatest aspect of women’s football being the welcoming of all people, regardless of race, gender or orientation, the Pride Parade represented all that was good about friendship and sportsmanship for the franchise. Having marched in the Parade herself, it was a great moment of pride for Bermingham.

“When we participated in the pride parade this year, it really meant a lot to me. The team has always been a welcoming environment for anyone, gay or straight, and welcomed myself and my girlfriend/fellow linemen Karen Lalonde with open arms.

The pride parade has always been something the team has been interested in participating in, but the MWFL schedule always seemed to conflict with the parade schedule. It was great to be able to participate this year, because it not only shows the team supports the Halifax GLTBQ community, but it was a good opportunity to get the Xplosion name out there.

People were coming up to us, and mentioning on twitter that they did not know Halifax had a women’s football team. We are expecting at least a few new faces next year. The experience was unlike anything else. I have always gone to the parade, watching from the sidelines. Yet this year, marching in the parade, meeting people, and showing Halifax what we are all about was amazing.”

While the challenge to become one of the elite teams in the MWFL is an uphill one, Bermingham is ready. Having accepted the role of lineman with tremendous enthusiasm and interest, it has helped to shape her into a consistent performer with the Xplosion. When discussing the topic of leadership, her impact on the line was mentioned,

“I am not sure I would consider myself a leader on the team, but I think considered myself a leader within the line. When I joined, the line was a little lackluster. Apparently our team had people playing linemen that should never have been playing linemen.

When Karen and I joined, we were lucky to have a dedicated coach to teach us what being a linemen was all about. We worked hard to learn from a former SMU Lineman/Xplosion coach, Adam Hawco.”

With the acumen that Hawco shared, it helped lay the foundation in place to forge a new attitude on the line. As a willing student, Bermingham benefited from his teaching and her efforts have yielded great results for the Xplosion. While his departure from the franchise has left a big hole to fill, Bermingham’s confidence and strong skills provide a superlative on-field mentor for the next generation of rookies.

“Adam taught us the importance of footwork, power steps, how to block and protect the quarterback and inside control. He worked one on one with us every day (including the day he made us practice the power step for 20 minutes without a break; our legs were killing us.)

Each year we got better and better. Last year, Adam had to leave our team to pursue a job, but he left us in a good position to teach the new linemen these techniques. I know I do not know everything and I would never say I do, but at least I know enough to help out and give pointers.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Photo credit: Jason Quackenbush

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