Tradition continues for Xplosion with 2015 Pride Parade march

In the aftermath of a third consecutive season, the extraordinary women of the MWFL’s Halifax Xplosion welcomed summer by proudly giving back to the community with their participation in the local Pride Parade. Quickly becoming a tradition among the celebrated women that don the Xplosion’s navy blue jersey, it represents a day when friendships and football gracefully collide in a unique collaboration built on esteem and reverence.

Of note, the Pride Parade was part of a weeklong Halifax Pride Festival, part of Atlantic Canada’s largest LGBT Cultural Event. Drawing more than 150,000 participants, it is the fourth largest in all of Canada. With the Xplosion proudly participating in an opportunity to celebrate diversity, the Parade Route ran through Lower Water Street to Barrington Street, then to Spring Garden Road and South Park Street.

Among the great aspects of the Xplosion’s involvement in the Pride Parade consists of those remarkable signs that the players carry. Since their first involvement in the Parade, said signs have become an obligatory component that comprises a significant part of what is always a fun and enjoyable time.

Having contributed to many of the designs, along with the ingenuity of some very humorous text, it is part of the process that Alanna Keats finds to be among the most enjoyable aspects of participating.

“It all starts with the parade prep, as those witty signs would not have been able to write themselves. This year I had the opportunity to participate in the parade and I can honestly say that we are more than just a team, we are a family. Everyone who came out had a blast, just being out representing the sport we love, and showing the fun and laughter that we have to the public unites us as a team.”

The Xplosion players that participated in the 2015 edition included a blend of first-year players and veterans. Among the veteran group, Terri Smith-Fraser led the way by organizing the player’s involvement. Working with various charitable causes throughout the year, Smith-Fraser is among one of the team’s growing number of empowering sporting humanitarians.

Of note, she was joined by Natasha McMaster, who works tirelessly off the field in various administrative capacities with the Xplosion. Marching in the Parade for the first time, representing a new milestone in her proud career with the Xplosion, McMaster was joined by fellow veterans such as Angela Howell, Dianne Ikeda, Sarah Ingraham and Alanna Keats.

“This is the third time our team has been in the parade but the first time I have been able to participate. What I love is that our team always comes together on and off the field and this is another great example of that. My favorite thing about the parade was the energy of the crowd. It was so great to see so many people there supporting one another and sharing in such a fun event,” reflected McMaster.

Photo credit: Dan Nordoff

Photo credit: Dan Nordoff

Among the first-year players participating, Meg Charnley, Shana Hendsbee, Kristie Killam, Jessica Legere, Katelynn Mary and Anna Rejoice Payne proudly walked alongside their veteran teammates, finding inspiration and encouragement. For Payne, the chance to participate in the Parade was the perfect ending to a remarkable and memorable inaugural season.

While the season was defined by fun and new friendships, Payne was proud to contribute to an exciting aspect of women’s sport in Nova Scotia. Collaboratively, the pioneering women of the Xplosion are transforming female football from a novelty sport into an energizing movement that ensures a spot in Atlantic Canada’s sporting consciousness.

“I am extremely proud to be a part of the Xplosion football team and the Pride Parade. Women playing football!? Oh yeah! I knew nothing about football besides the fact that it is a ‘man’s’ game. So I had to be a part of it. I am a tomboy at heart. I grew up with 4 brothers…I was not interested in the typical girly things.

When we were little, I remember being to play tackle football with my brothers. They did not want the girl and I had something to prove… my gender does not get to rule what I am able to do.

I was also very excited and curious about the girls that I would be joining. I imagined a pack of brutes but I was pleasantly surprised to find that we were all very unique. The greatest part was how accepting and lighthearted everyone was. It was not long before I felt like I had known these girls my whole life.”

All remarkable ambassadors for women’s football in Nova Scotia, the inclement weather could not dampen their jubilant feelings of joy. In discussing what she enjoyed most about participating this year, Katelynn Mary noted,

“It is definitely the atmosphere. Seeing everyone so happy (even though it was a gross rainy day, everyone was just so excited to be there).”

Image obtained from Facebook

Image obtained from Facebook

Adding to the magic of such a notable event was the fact that some Xplosion players donated their time for another worthy cause in the community. Taking place during the regular season, Killam was the catalyst that helped to organize the involvement of the Xplosion with the Sole Sisters charitable walk. Finding inspiration in such a cause, Smith-Fraser was proud to take part, reflecting on the feelings of friendship and compassion that defined the day,

“It was probably one of the most incredible events I have been involved in. We handed out medals and hugs! It was amazing!”

Smith-Fraser’s efforts in Sole Sisters was also a special way to reciprocate the positive impact that the Xplosion had on Killam. One of the great success stories of the Xplosion’s involvement in the Pride Parade was the positive feelings and inspiration that were shared. Such an impact is one that proved to be the catalyst for Killam to pursue her gridiron dreams.

“Pride for me is a powerful event, a mixture of awareness, acceptance and celebration of diversity and at the same time similarity.

My first awareness of the Xplosion was at a Pride parade a few years ago, I seen these powerful women in football gear having fun and walking in the parade. Then I realized it was an actual team of women playing, not just a float but a team of real contact football players, and there was a league! It was awesome!”

Not giving up on her gridiron dreams, her commitment to fitness would pay positive dividends this year. Part of a remarkable rookie class that helped the Xplosion enjoy its first winning season and Friendship Bowl, the 2015 season represented a cherished milestone in Killam’s athletic endeavors.

From once admiring the Xplosion’s efforts as a spectator in the Pride Parade, to walking (and playing) alongside them, a remarkable commitment has provided Killam with great satisfaction and reward. Simultaneously continuing to increase awareness of the female game, Killam is committed to creating the same powerful impact that inspired her, encouraging a new group of dedicated women towards an exciting football odyssey.

“I was at the start of my fitness journey, coming down from my highest weight, getting in shape but not thinking of myself as an athlete by any stretch of the imagination,( about as graceful as a badger with a trap on its foot!). Yet, I thought maybe, one day if I could manage it, I could play with them.

Life gets in the way sometimes for a bit, I kept training at the gym, carried on with my fitness journey and then this past January when tryouts were starting up I gave it a try and fell in love with it.

This year has been like a full circle for me, to be in the parade, with MY team, MY friends, an amazing group of women promoting OUR Xplosion. Presenting football to women who may not of known its out there for them to play, who may try it and fall in love with the sport and then who may look back and say “ I guess I am an athlete after all.” as I did, is empowering.”

Perhaps one of the hidden gems about participating in the Pride Parade is the opportunity that exists for team building. Taking into account that one of the legacies of football (at any level) is the feeling of camaraderie that defines the gridiron culture, it is only natural that the unbreakable bonds of friendship which develop can result in strong teamwork off the field, extending into noble causes,. For first-year player Meg Charnley, that sense of friendship took on a greater and more profound meaning,

“The football team has been such an important part in my life since I joined at the beginning of the year. What they say about football teams being like family is absolutely true. I fall in the LGTB+ spectrum so to have my football family be there to support Pride was a pretty awesome feeling.”

Among the veterans on the Xplosion’s roster, Dianne Ikeda has walked alongside many teammates over the last few editions of the Parade. Delighted over the opportunity to take part, it mirrors Ikeda’s views on what makes playing for the Xplosion such a positive experience, defined by the feeling of inclusion for all.

“Participating in the Pride Parade is about more than just having fun. It is about promoting the family we have as a part of the team, and how everyone is included regardless of whatever background an individual has – gay, straight, white, black, big, little. Everyone is accepted and has a place on the team.”

In addition to becoming part of a growing sorority of football-playing moms that has graced the MWFL gridiron, Shana Hendsbee was among a group of first-year players that contributed to a winning season with the Xplosion. With said season culminating in a Friendship Bowl victory, the chance to participate in the Pride Parade was an opportunity to recognize the hard work and collaborative efforts of the women who make up the Xplosion.

“This was my first year on the team and my first Pride Parade. As a mom of two football players in the minor football (Fall River dragons) and their team manager, I know that a lot of work goes in to running a football team and a lot of work to keep it going. As an adult women’s football team, it seemly takes a lot more perseverance as adult teams do not get near the support as youth teams.

The women that have been with the team and seen it through its up and downs, have my full appreciation. If it was not for the veterans, it is very likely that the Halifax Xplosion would not have had a team this year.”

Having marched with the Xplosion in previous Pride Parades, Sarah Ingraham has contributed to a proud legacy in franchise history. Bringing a winning smile and enthusiasm that makes her such a valued teammate and friend on and off the field, the opportunity to give back to the community is more than just a source of enjoyment. In addition, she is equally proud of the chance to increase awareness about Nova Scotia’s only female football team, exemplifying the outstanding potential of women in sport,

“I love getting our name out there and making more people aware that there is a women’s football team in NS. I love our team spirit and how it brings the team together for a good cause.”

Representing equality on a sporting and social level, the impact of the remarkable women of the Xplosion goes beyond the gridiron. Their participation in the Parade, complemented by an admirable dedication throughout the football season makes them role models. It is part of the essence of empowerment that makes Shana Hendsbee proud to don the Xplosion colours,

“Being in the Parade, with these amazing women was so powerful, it reinforces the love, acceptance and pure determination of these ladies that I am very proud to call my football family.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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