STAFFIERI: Perseverance and commitment provide Allyssa Buckland with place on Team Canada

Part of an exciting time for the Winnipeg Wolfpack, which sees the club continue to rise in prominence, Allyssa Buckland was among four fantastic women that added a significant sense of history in team lore. Along with Breanne Ward, Mubo Christine Ilelaboye and Christine O’Donnell, who previously appeared in a pair of international tournaments, Buckland was named to the Canadian contingent that participated in the 2017 IFAF Women’s Worlds.

Hosted on home soil in Vancouver, the feeling of achievement took on a very proud patriotic meaning for Buckland. Undoubtedly, that feeling of national pride took shape upon the revelation that she was named to the national team.

With the number 5 adorning her jersey, Alyssa Buckland in the Team Canada jersey (Image supplied by Buckland)

In reflecting on the impact of such a milestone, there was a flood of emotion. Although the obligatory feeling of nervousness was prevalent prior to opening the email consisting of such news, such feelings were quickly replaced by euphoric elation, ecstatic at the announcement which represented an evolution in her gridiron odyssey.

“I was in disbelief when I made Team Canada. I remember being absolutely terrified to check the email and when I finally had the courage to open the email it said nothing, it just had an attachment. After again finding the courage to open the attachment, I read the first word which was Congratulation, screamed and immediately starting crying.”

Undoubtedly, there was also a strong sense of provincial pride for the jubilant Buckland. As one of five women from Manitoba to compete with Canada at the IFAF Worlds, the fifth included Alexa Matwyczuk from the rival Fearless, it is an important step forward in shaping the province’s promising gridiron future.

Taking into account that Manitoba did not field a team for the 2016 Canadian women’s national championships, it was a tremendous testament to the abilities of Buckland and her fellow Manitobans to be named to Canada’s roster.

In addition, there was also a strong sense of redemption for Buckland, whose dream of playing for Canada, was one shared with Ward. Having both experienced the heartbreak of not qualifying for Canada’s roster at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds, neither gave up on their dream, encouraging each other and training together to reach their mutual goal.

Both embodying the spirit of persistence and determination, the ability for each of these character women to bounce back was made more special by their strong collaboration, pushing each other to be better athletes. For a Wolfpack team that continues to strive to be in the postseason conversation, women such as Buckland and Ward are certainly figures of inspiration in the hope of achieving the elusive dream,

In the colors of the Winnipeg Wolfpack (Image obtained from: Winnipeg Free Press)

“I was so happy to be going with three of my teammates, Breanne and I have worked together since 2012 to play on the national team. We went through the disappointment of getting cut in 2013, but immediately started training and working harder with the goal of making the team in 2017.
It was great to have three teammates in Vancouver, there were definitely moments were you mentally and physically exhausted, they were a huge support system.”

The chance to be part of the 2017 IFAF Women’s Worlds also rekindled proud and accomplished memories from Buckland’s past sporting endeavors. Buckland’s athletic background involves competitive rugby, akin to Tanya Henderson, another first-year player for Team Canada in Vancouver.

With the chance to have played for Manitoba’s provincial teams in both rugby and football, it also elicits a strong sense of extending a great sporting legacy. Of note, Buckland competed with Team Manitoba at the 2012 Canadian women’s football nationals, signifying a key milestone that sparked the possibility of achieving her world class dreams.

“Before playing for Team Manitoba football in 2012, I had played for Team Manitoba rugby from 2007-2010, so I have a lot of provincial pride. In comparison to other provinces, I think sometimes Manitoba gets overlooked but our teams are always very aggressive and hard working!
Playing on Team Canada has been a goal of mine for as long as I can remember. I have played football since I was 12, starting with boys and to be playing a female national championship in 2012 was absolutely incredible. Not only was it a big step towards the national team for me, it was a huge step for women’s football in Canada.”

With the chance to achieve her sporting dreams, it resulted in a series of memorable moments for a gracious Buckland. Undoubtedly, every game brought with it a highlight that enriched the privilege of wearing Canada’s colors.

From the preliminary round, that involved Canada competing against Australia in their first-ever contest in IFAF play, along with a sensational squad from Great Britain, who captured the silver at the European women’s championships, Buckland reflects jubilantly on these compelling contests.

“When they played the anthem before our first game which was against Australia, I have dreamt of that moment since I was a child singing the anthem while wearing the Maple Leaf.

Our goal line stand in the final moments of the Great Britain game. Our goal had been to shut them out, and they were on the goal line with seconds left. I remember being on the field thinking, this is a moment that dreams are of and there was absolutely no way we were going to let them score.”
Such highlights were part of four fantastic elements that defined Buckland’s time in Vancouver. The other two took on a more personal nature. From honoring her teammates, a group of 40+ wondrous women that were Buckland’s football sisters for two titanic weeks, they took on the persona of a second family.

With the chance to have her immediate family in the stands, it provided Buckland with a deeper feeling of home field advantage. To wear the Canadian jersey was not just emblematic of her amazing career and the sweat and sacrifice involved in reaching this peak. It was also a chance to pay tribute to her proud parents, who were always her teammates from the beginning of this fascinating football journey,

“My teammates, it’s often difficult when you have players coming from all across the country to come together especially when we only had 1 week before our first game. We came together so quickly and easily with one common goal to win a World Championship.

Having my parents and brother in Vancouver, being able to look up and see them at any moment. Usually I can hear my mom before I see her though, she is always the loudest person in the crowd.
They have supported me through the entire journey, driving me to practices for so many years, helping me meal prep, making sure I was up for 6am workouts, and never missing a game. I can honestly say I would not had made Team Canada without them.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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