Valkyries legend Marci Halseth brought charismatic presence to Canada’s coaching staff

With the 2017 IFAF Women’s Worlds descending on Vancouver, British Columbia, there was no shortage of heartwarming stories. For host country Canada, the most compelling may have belonged to the remarkable Marci Halseth.

Having graced the gridiron with Canada’s contingent at the 2013 edition of the Women’s Worlds, complemented by a 2016 national championship with Team Saskatchewan, Halseth (nee Kiselyk) is a five-time WWCFL champion whose legend was first established as a highly talented wide receiver with the dynastic Saskatoon Valkyries. One of the club’s charter members, she was a fixture for the green and white over many sensational and memorable seasons, helping compose a new chapter of achievement in Saskatchewan sporting lore.

Halseth in action with Team Saskatchewan at the 2016 Canadian National Championships (Credit: Living Light Photography)

Originally slated as a member of the roster for 2017, Halseth worked tirelessly towards building on the momentum of 2013 with golden dreams. With the ambitious dream of a repeat opportunity to wear the Canadian jersey, such ambitions were derailed after suffering an unfortunate tear to her Achilles heel.

In the midst of such despair, there was a beacon of hope, one which truly embodied the sense of teamwork and family that defines Canada’s national team. Head coach Jeff Yausie, who had also coached Halseth with the Valkyries, felt that she was too valuable to not be part of the team.

Familiar with Halseth’s experience as a junior high school football coach, Yausie displayed tremendous grace and dignity, recognizing her acumen. Named as the Wide Receivers coach for Team Canada, a position that she helped to redefine, it was a boon to her self-esteem, providing her with a renewed sense of purpose and fulfillment,

Halseth providing instruction to a member of Canada’s receiving corps (Image from the Marci Halseth Collection)

“After years of training to compete for Canada again, tearing my achilles was devastating. When Jeff called and offered me a coaching position with the team, I was thrilled! Knowing I could still have the experience of being involved was really important for my emotional health as I recovered.

I have been coaching football for six years. This was such an educational experience because I learned so much from the people with whom I was coaching. I am looking forward to my junior high school season starting because I hope to be a more effective offensive coordinator after coaching within a new playbook, and having many insightful conversations throughout the tournament.”

The result was more than a proud milestone for Halseth. Joining Saadia Ashraf, a former Montreal Blitz quarterback, on the coaching staff there was a shared sense of history. Of note, they would become the first two Team Canada alums to take on coaching roles with the national team, both embodying the continuing effort to provide women with more responsibility in shaping their destiny for the game’s future,

“I believe that for our sport to continue to progress, there needs to be more women coaching and officiating. It was great to get to work with Saadia again, and to see how she’s transitioned from a player to a coach with the Blitz. We were fortunate to have an excellent and supportive staff working with the team, and they gave us great confidence and helped us to learn from the experience.”

A smiling Halseth on the sidelines with a pair of receivers (Image from the Marci Halseth Collection)

Also holding a profound gridiron connection to Halseth on the Team Canada roster involved Jaime Lammerding. Both charter members of the Valkyries, collaborating on the shaping of a dynasty, one of the greatest in modern Canadian sports, their careers have also been intertwined at the international level. The 2013 edition of the IFAF Women’s Worlds represented a proud achievement as each player was part of the Canadian contingent.

With Lammerding part of Team Canada’s offensive line unit once again in 2017, there was also a symbolic passing of the torch. As a side note, Valkyries teammate Alyssa Funk made her debut for Canada at this year’s IFAF Worlds, joining Lammerding on the o-line.

Undoubtedly, sharing another Team Canada experience with Lammerding, albeit in a different capacity compared to 2013, was an element which added glitter to Halseth’s historic role in Vancouver.

“Just as football in Canada has developed significantly since 2010, so too has Jaime. She has become a natural leader, which was made very clear when her teammates named her a captain. She is also a very selfless teammate; she willingly moved from the defensive to the offensive line to better help the team.”

The transition from player to coach was a rather seamless one for Halseth. With a group of receivers that Halseth has already graced the gridiron with in numerous facets, highlighted by Alex Black and Claire Dore with Team Canada in 2013, along with Rose-Amelie Brunet and Annabelle Chevrier with the Blitz, that element of familiarity allowed for a favorable experience that was reciprocated between coach and players alike, resulting in a confident demeanor that helped enhance the buoyancy of the offense.

Additionally, the chance to serve as a receivers coach also rekindled fond memories of an athletic past for Halseth. Prior to her football heroics, Halseth was a prominent member of the University of Saskatchewan’s varsity women’s basketball team.

Among her teammates during those formative years was Alicia Wilson, who would both earn a Canadian Interuniversity Sport bronze medal together, propelling the program into the conversation among the nationally ranked programs.

“The coolest part of coaching the receivers was that I had played with nearly all of them in the past, whether with the Valkyries, Team Saskatchewan, or Canada in 2013. I even played three years of Huskie basketball with Alicia Wilson! It was great to take on another role with the group, and I was happy they seemed to accept my transition from teammate to coach fairly easily.”

Ruminating on the prestige of being part of the staff from Canada’s first-ever national women’s team that participated on home soil, the city of Vancouver shall always hold a treasured place in Halseth’s heart. While her acumen and dedication are cornerstones that have added significant embellishment to her legacy as a leader, her ability to bounce back from an injury and manage to make meaningful contributions were a tremendous source of inspiration.

“To represent your country is always such an honour, and though it didn’t happen the way I had intended, coaching the team was very fun. Some of my best friends were players or coaches on the team, and it was awesome to get to share the experience with them!”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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