Player with a misson

Football journey enriching for Xplosion’s Gillis.

One of the most promising players on the Halifax Xplosion defense, Alicia Gillis is working tirelessly towards transforming the franchise into a contender. While the choice to pursue football was one that was received with mixed reactions, it has been an endeavor which has provided her with tremendous personal growth.

“When my family and friends heard I had joined an all-women’s full tackle football team, they were shocked and concerned for me. Once football started, my friends were very supportive and excited for me.

The life-changing decision to pursue women’s tackle football was made easier as she was accompanied by friend Marlene Chickness. Together, the two would become members of the Xplosion’s defensive unit.

“My family was still concerned, wondering why I chose football and not another sport that was ‘easier’. I replied, ‘I didn’t choose football, football chose me.’ My friend and teammate, Marlene Chickness, had seen a poster for the Halifax Xplosion and asked if I would join this team with her. Without much hesitation, I said yes, it would be an adventure for us.”

While Gillis was a novice in football, her dedication and drive to be part of a team and contribute made her one of the feel-good stories among the roster. Employing a willingness to learn, she escaped her comfort zone and took the plunge.

“If I had been in my early twenties, the answer would have been a definite no, for sure. I was ready for something new. I had never played on a sports team before, let alone watch a full football game on television. I knew I would have lots to learn. Since joining, I have learned a lot about football and myself. I have definitely gained a lot of confidence and am thankful for this experience.”

As the Xplosion grow and develop into a club that is looking to stake their claim among the MWFL’s elite, Gillis has enjoyed some memorable moments in her football sojourn. Playing on defense, the opportunity to make a tackle, interception or sack all rank as great milestones. The thrill of making her first big tackle brought with it tremendous reward and gratification.

“The best part for me was finally making a big tackle in a game. My teammate’s reactions were not what I expected but it made me so happy. It felt really good! At one practice, I had made my first big tackle on teammate, Cody Spence, and everyone was so excited for me then.

A coach had promised a party for me when I made my first tackle. There was always something to look forward to. Being a part of a team can be so exciting, we are all in it together, sharing in the wins and learning from the losses.”

Another great point of pride for Gillis is the fact that she can proudly state she was part of the MWFL’s milestone tenth anniversary season. As the longest running women’s sports league in Canada, the opportunity to have been part of it stands as a treasured aspect in her career,

“It has been a sincere pleasure to be part of the MWFL’s tenth anniversary. May more women become aware of this amazing opportunity to play women’s football and represent the Maritimes.”

Like any athlete, Gillis has her own mentors that inspired her and provided her with the guidance to make things happen. In reflecting on the nascent days of her football career, she cites the assistance of a particular coach that assisted her with the transition to the smash-mouth world of MWFL football,

“If it was not for Defensive Coach David Murray, I may not have lasted the whole season. It was very overwhelming in the beginning since I was so new to it all, but his encouraging words kept me going. He has the most energy I have ever seen and is so dedicated to this team.

Always giving positive feedback and after each practice/game, he was ready to tell us what an excellent job we did. Half the time, I had no idea I was doing anything right but he usually noticed it and was ready to share it with us. Everyone needs a coach like that!”

Besides Coach Murray, she is also very appreciative of the individuals who have helped to serve as the backbone of the club. From administrators, managers and photographers, their volunteer efforts helped to define the spirit of teamwork. Through raising awareness and stimulating interest for the budding franchise, it is a win-win situation.

“Big shout out to people on the sidelines who were always there to support us and kept the team together. To name a few, Tasha MacMaster, Heather and Cassy Archibald, along with Jason Quackenbush. Great job everyone!”

With a promising future ahead for the Xplosion, Gillis is looking forward to next season. While there will be a lot of work, it is one that Gillis believes will yield remarkable results. Like her teammates, her goal is to win a title.

In discussing what will be required to make those championship dreams come true, she mentioned, “We are all ready for a championship for sure! All it will take is hard work, discipline, and dedication and our year will be 2014. If we all work in the off season, it would be a huge benefit for next year’s season.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Photo credit: Jason Quackenbush Photography

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