Storm star Mackie makes third straight appearance at Women’s World Football Games

Having attended all three editions of the Women’s World Football Games (WWFG), Steph Mackie is part of a rare group of players to achieve this unique status in their gridiron careers. As one of the members of the WWCFL’s Edmonton Storm, Mackie’s growth as a leader has run parallel to the early evolution of the WWFG.

Bringing a winning smile and positive attitude, Mackie’s enjoyment of the gridiron game is without dispute. The chance to be part of such an empowering chapter in the history of female football is one that she is proud to have participated in. With ambitions to bring an elusive WWCFL championship to the Storm, the experience and confidence acquired from the WWFG is definitely a key contributor towards a growing presence that may make such title ambitions within reach.

From the inaugural WWFG in Texas, to the second in Tampa, the third found Mackie attending the event in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her journey to Louisiana was an adventure in itself. Considering that economy was a priority, she managed to catch a ride with Mississippi resident Shannon Garrett, a former member of the Edmonton Eskimos whose football resume also includes a stint as defensive backs coach with the University of Alberta Golden Bears.

“In order to afford to go to the camp, I had to be as frugal as possible. Luckily, I was able to catch a ride down with former CFL All Star and two-time Grey Cup Champion Shannon Garrett. The drive down accumulated to 38 hours, spread over three days.

It was enduring, especially before a 6-day long camp, but I did everything I could to attend. We spent a great portion of our time discussing football. He really made sure I understood my roles and responsibilities and helped slow the game down for me.”

As the WWFG evolves and develops, it not only builds on the foundation of an already thrilling legacy, it attracts significant star power. In addition to the presence of living legends such as Donna Wilkinson and Dr. Jen Welter, the kindness and graciousness of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints shone brightly.

Considering that this was the first WWFG hosted at an NFL facility, it proved to be an exhilarating time while supplying an unprecedented impact that only added to the growing importance of female football and the relevant role of women in a proud future for the game’s growth. Upon arriving at the Saints facility, it served as a seminal moment in Mackie’s career,

“I was in complete disbelief when I walked into the Saints Facility. That fact that the organization offered up their turf and positional rooms, prepared meals for us, and as well having the many active Saints players take time away from their training schedule to come check us out and even help coach us through some of the drills was incredible.

Michael Lewis spoke to us during a player development session and even came out on game day to do the coin toss for all 3 of the games. Each session, whether it is practices, positional meetings, lunch, or player development, it was special and memorable. It will be hard to top the next WWFG, but now I feel like the door is open. Sam Rapoport and Elizabeth Faust along with all the USA Football staff really brought it this year, as they do every year. Sam did not stop smiling once the entire time I was there.”

Assigned to Team Black, Mackie was given number 32, instead of the usual number 88 that she has worn for several seasons with the Storm. While several of the other attending players from the WWCFL were part of Team White, there was no feeling of competition, as all felt a shared sense of triumph.

While the endless fascination with the NFL experience definitely provided Mackie a lifetime of memories, resulting in a feeling of belonging for all the great women in attendance, it also stirred powerful emotions. In reflecting on the earliest experiences of football in her youth, she looks towards the future and the opportunities for the next generation with great optimism. There is no question that Mackie helped contribute to that future, one that stems from her bravura, excited at the potential.

Consulting with a coach during the third Women's World Football Games

Consulting with a coach during the third Women’s World Football Games

“I played football with the neighbourhood kids when I was little, but it never went anywhere from there until I found a women’s league in Edmonton five years ago. I never even dreamt of playing football as a little girl, let alone playing in an NFL stadium. I just hope that young girls nowadays grow up knowing that they can do anything. That they can achieve anything, even if it’s something they never even knew was a possibility to begin with.”

Quite possibly the most unique of Mackie’s experience at the WWFG was the opportunity to meet the aforementioned Welter for a second time. While Welter’s presence was one that added to the sense of collective achievement for all the women in attendance at the WWFG, Mackie held a rare distinction.

During the first WWFG, Mackie and the participants had the chance to see Welter actually play a game with the Texas Revolution, becoming the first woman to play a contact position against men. It was a moment that helped add to Welter’s growing myth while motivating women of all sports to overcome obstacles and create their own legacies,

“I had met Jen Welter at the very first WWFGs held Dallas back in 2014 and was so fortunate enough to see her play her first game on a professional men’s team. I know for myself, I have a pre game regiment that I do in order to perform. She came out to the field and ended up giving us a pre game pep talk.

She took the time out before her big game debut. I will never forget the moment during the game when she was handed the ball. She may have only taken a few steps before being thrown to the ground. I was in completely disbelief, thinking that there was no way she could have possibly rebounded from such a powerful hit. When she bounced back up on her feet, it made the biggest statement, as if she was asking “is that all you’ve got?” Those kinds of moments really stick with you. She took that hit for all of women football players.”

In speaking at the third WWFG, Welter brought an even more profound impact. Having served an internship during the 2015 NFL preseason, working as a linebackers coach for the Arizona Cardinals, it was more than just a career milestone. It was a collective victory for all women in football. For Mackie, she was proud to see Welter gain the chance to serve at the NFL level.

“When she (Welter) was named as coach in the NFL, it was an exciting moment for women worldwide. Finally, women and young girls have a role model, and doors are opening. Sarah Thomas, Katie Sowers, Kathryn Smith, and even Sam Gordon are all trailblazers for this game and incredible role models. They may be the first names we hear, but they definitely won’t be the last.

There’s honestly just too much to say, that I can’t even express my gratitude to everyone involved from USA Football, Sam Rapoport, Elizabeth Faust, The New Orleans staff, all of the many coaches, and of course the amazing women from all over the world that I get to share the field with.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Photo credits: Rebecca Gitlitz

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