Worldly presence

Chan part of strong Valkyries class in attendance at Women’s World Football Games

After a promising rookie campaign with the Saskatoon Valkyries, Ehjae Chan (pronounced Ay-Jay) looked to improve and develop her game even further by attending the second annual Women’s World Football Games (WWFG). When not on the gridiron, Chan is an accomplished photographer and an entrepreneur. Having launched her own photography business in 2011, a portion of all profits goes to charitable causes, making her a sporting humanitarian.

During the 2014 Western Women’s Canadian Football League (WWCFL) season, Chan experienced a very special milestone, capturing the league championship as a rookie. The rookie linebacker would even earn playing time during the contest, the result was a convincing 53-0 defeat of the Western Conference champion Lethbridge Steel.

In looking to build on such momentum, Chan found a suitable opportunity to develop as a player by attending the WWFG. Hosted in Tampa, Florida, the event was organized by USA Football and featured women from over a dozen countries. Over a series of four days, the events featured a combination of drills, film and an intrasquad game on the final day. The chance for Chan to meet so many other empowering women from the world over served as a great source of inspiration,

“I wanted to attend the WWFG because I want to take every opportunity to learn about football that I can. Being new to the sport, it means that I am still soaking up tons of information. With each rep in practice, I began to understand more. My body begins to react instinctively without my brain overloading all of the time! I also thought it would be inspiring to meet other female football players from around the world.”

Competing on defense, Chan is hoping to grow into a bigger role with the Valkyries, setting a positive example for younger players to emulate. While the WWFG allowed Chan the chance to sharpen her skills and expand her knowledge, the fact that she was accompanied by several Valkyries served to enhanced the experience.

Joined by fellow teammates such as Carly Dyck, a free agent acquisition who previously played with the Letbridge Steel, along with rookie Alyssa Funk, among others, they were among a record number of Canadian players in attendance, representing a proud milestone for the Valkyries. In discussing what it meant to be able to participate in the WWFG with her teammates, Chan reflects fondly,

“The Valkyries have become a family to me. Travelling with our group made an incredible experience into an amazingly unforgettable one. We had someone who has played since the first season, two of us were rookies last year, and two girls were rookies to our team this year. Alyssa had not ever played in a football game until the WWFG so that was crazy for her! We had lots of time to dissect our days and talk about how what we were learning would fit into or maybe not even apply for our team at home.”

For Chan and all the women in attendance at the WWFG, the unifying force was a love of the game, creating a positive and empowering energy. Perhaps more importantly, Chan captures the essence of the game, commenting on the balance between the strength and beauty,

“The most enjoyable part was being surrounded by women who had travelled from all over the world for the same reason as I had: We all love football and we celebrate being women in all capacities. There is something powerful about being simultaneously strong and gentle. We are strong: As women, we have fought hard to be respected in life and in sport. We are gentle: We love fiercely, and hold each others’ hearts compassionately.

No matter which country we are from, we are all pressing forward in an unseen battle, forging a path for the girls who come after us so that they can be respected and have more football opportunities like the WWFG. There was an unspoken bond between all of us because we know that we are all in the midst of that journey.”

Taking into account that the province of Saskatchewan is a football hotbed, Chan is among a group of amazing women making a powerful statement about sporting equality. As the Roughriders hold a profound impact on many members of the Valkyries roster who grew up watching football, (among Chan’s favourite teams, she also roots for baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays and the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks), they are now giving a generation of young girls in Saskatoon an entire new group of football heroes to admire while adding to the province’s status as the heartbeat of football in Canada.

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Photo credit: Liam Richards, the Star Phoenix

Advocating for football prospects one story at a time.

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