STAFFIERI: Aly Bell part of amazing time in Saskatchewan female football history

In a fascinating age for female football, Aly Bell has made a unique contribution to its mythology. A multi-sport star that has balanced a love of athletic competition while giving back through admirable work as a coach in youth sports, Bell is part of a unique sorority in Saskatchewan football lore.

Having played for both the Saskatoon Valkyries and the Regina Riot, Bell has seen both sides in one of the biggest rivalries in Canadian sport. A graduate of the University of Saskatchewan, Bell’s football sojourn began as a member of the Green and White.

Capturing a WWCFL championship in 2016, the fifth in Valkyries history, it represented a proud pinnacle that validated the sweat and sacrifice, part of a treasured collection of memories that involved competing with the fabled franchise,

“I had a million favourite moments with the Valks. Winning the WWCFL championship in my second year was number one of course but the team and coaches were the ones who made me fall in love with the sport so it came with a whole lot of amazing times.”

Along with Amery Deren, Aly Bell and Karlie Jackson, all Valkyries alums that captured a 2017 WWCFL title with the Regina Riot (Credit: Roshelle Montgomery)[/caption] their careers in the WWCFL took a unique turn in 2017, eventually altering the balance of power in the Prairie Conference. Becoming members of the archrival Regina Riot, it was a transition that would bring with it tremendous emotion throughout the season.

Amery Deren, Aly Bell and Karlie Jackson, all Valkyries alums that captured a 2017 WWCFL title with the Regina Riot (Credit: Roshelle Montgomery)

Considering that Bell’s decision was influenced by relocation for career, the decision to change allegiances and don the red of the Riot was far from easy. Although Bell may have been on the other side of one of Canada’s greatest sporting rivalries, there is a level of respect for the Valkyries that shall endure in perpetuity,

“It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make (as sad as that is). Some of my best friends (still) play for the Valks so it sucked to leave them. But I had graduated school and that’s what I had been in Saskatoon for.

I had to put my career first for once and I knew a long time ago that I wanted be closer to home when I did – I am from Moose Jaw. I was just lucky enough that I was still able to play football with the Riot and that they were so welcoming and accepting of me when I did decide to join them!”

From the outset, Bell’s new chapter in football resulted in a remarkable element of WWCFL history. Of note, the first regular season matchup between the Riot and the Valkyries resulted in a 16-0 final, signifying the first-time that the powerhouse franchise ever endured a loss by shutout.

Such a victory would actually prove to be prologue. With both teams renewing rivalries in the Prairie Conference championship game, marking the seventh consecutive time that they have battled each other for Conference supremacy, the venue was just as much part of this rich and compelling narrative.

Bell (wearing number 76) celebrating the 2017 WWCFL championship win (Credit: Living Light Photography)

Competing at the iconic Mosaic Stadium, it was an ideal showcase for some of the finest female football talent in all of Canada. As the hallowed venue was hosting its final football game, the chance to be part of its legacy represented a great fulfillment.

Although the match represented history, it also signified a transition, consisting of a compelling moment that highlighted the female football game’s importance in Saskatchewan’s cultural relevance.

Proving that the women of football deserve their rightful place in the sporting spotlight, Mosaic heralded their arrival as competitors integral to the province’s proud athletic heritage.

“Playing the Valks in the semi finals brought on a million emotions. I mean, I knew it was going to happen, of course, but you never actually know how you are going to feel until you are on the field and you are wearing red instead of green. I was so nervous and anxious and I never get that way before I play.

I was also excited. I love playing them. They are such a great team. It was so strange for me, too, because I played offensive line for them last year and this year I played d-line, so I was going up against my linemates (laughs).”

Not only did Bell make her mark in WWCFL lore by participating in this landmark contest, it was also prologue for an even greater glory to follow. As the Rage defeated the Calgary Rage, who were making their championship debut, for the league title, it propelled Bell into a very rare sorority of gridiron goddesses.

Bell making a tackle against a member of the Calgary Rage in the 2017 WWCFL championship game (Credit: Living Light Photography)

Capturing back-to-back championships with different teams, a feat that is difficult to achieve in any sport, such a feat was made much more special for a jubilant Bell by the fact that it was achieved with teams both from Saskatchewan.

Taking into account that Bell also had the privilege of playing for the provincial team at the 2016 edition of the Canadian national women’s championships, emerging with a gold medal, this trinity of achievements has transformed Bell into one of the game’s shining stars. In spite of such tremendous achievements, Bell remains humble and gracious. Focused on the sense of pride that comes from helping to contribute to the game’s rising prominence in her home province, just as important is the opportunity for her achievements to serve as a source of encouragement for younger players to achieve their own sporting dreams.

“Winning a WWCFL title twice with two different teams is amazing. It just goes to show how elite the women’s football programs are in Saskatchewan. I was a part of the Team Saskatchewan who won gold last year in the Canada Cup too, which just proves that fact even more.

The coaches in this province are unreal and the athleticism of the girls is second to none on both teams- the Riot and the Valks. It is so empowering as a female to say “hey I play women’s tackle football.” Yet, to say “hey I play women’s tackle football and have won two league championships while
doing so” is unreal.

It shows the young girls who are breaking barriers everywhere playing minor or high school ball that there is a real league that they can continue to play in after. And that is so cool.”

The reward for Bell also instills values of hard work, friendship and self-esteem. Such aspects have also been reciprocal, as Bell also admirably gives her time as a coach in a multitude of sports, highlighted by football and volleyball, where has also excelled in both as a player. While the chance to serve in a coaching capacity has certainly enriched her approach to competition, gaining an even more unique perspective, making her a more complete player, there is another aspect to such an evolution in her athletic endeavors.

Coaching younger members of the community, it is essential for Bell to help instill many of the important values learned in football into her coaching approach. Finding great joy in the chance to inspire aspiring athletes, it represents a proud labor of love for Bell.

While the chance to coach football provides Bell with the greatest satisfaction, mirroring her positive experiences on the field as a player, a significant part of her raison d’etre, is to help change cultural convention, ensuring that there is an important sense of respect and acknowledgement in the fact that females also deserve a chance to grace the gridiron.

“I honestly find coaching one of the most valuable things I can do with my time when I am not playing. It has helped me grow so much as a player- I am able to see the game in a different way and I have learned a to from it.

I have coached both girls’ and boys’ flag and tackle football. I have always coached volleyball, basketball, swimming and softball too. But what I am so passionate about football.

With all the teams I have coached in football, it is always about breaking the barriers. I am able to be a role model and say “Hey look- I am a girl and I know, understand, and play football.” With the boys that I have coached, I have worked on them respecting girls in the game.

In action with the Regina Riot (Credit: Living Light Photography)

Girls can play- I want them to know that. And with the girls, I want to push them to play and keep playing. I want them to push to be better than the boys, (laughs). I want them to feel like they can participate in any sport that they want to and that they can succeed at it.

Being a girl and coaching them helps that. One of my major things that I have always instilled in any team (no matter the sport) that I have coached is attitude and sportsmanship. It’s so huge for me because I grew up with a Dad who coached. He coached me in everything I ever played, and I was a hot head. I had such a temper.

He drilled it in me that a great athlete needs to have a great attitude and be a great teammate and I want all the athletes that I coach to be great athletes with great attitudes.

I should add in there, with the coaching, that I try and instill hard work and drive into my athletes too. I want them to work hard for what they want. Dedicate themselves in practice and give 100% in everything they do!”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Advocating for football prospects one story at a time.

Leave a Reply