Football fans in Sudbury got their first glimpse of the girls’ team at St. Benedict Secondary School on Wednesday afternoon as the Bears hosted Ottawa’s St. Mark Catholic School.
Organizers of the game claim it was the first official all-girls tackle soccer game in Canada.
Though the Bears lost to the Lions 17-14, St. Ben’s student Jasmine Howell said the feeling on the field was “really electric” as the team made history by becoming the first all-girls college tackle football team in Sudbury was.
“Even though we lost, it didn’t feel like a loss for me or any of the other girls,” Howell said. “We were part of something so much bigger than ourselves and paved the way for other girls in women’s sport.”
Howell, who finishes 12th grade, said she has taken on the role of mentoring the school’s younger athletes.
“I wanted to maybe make football less scary for the younger girls, be a bit of a role model,” she said. “I also wanted to go out and hit someone up there and make contact, just like the boys.”
Although several high school teams fielded flag football teams in the area, the Bears managed to assemble a roster for the full-contact version of the game.
Howell was concerned about the risk of injury and the prospect of physical contact with bruises. Coach Junior Labrosse said despite his reputation for hard-hitting play, proper teaching and coaching has lifted the sport relative to other sports when it comes to injuries.
“The way football is taught today is not how it was taught when I played,” said Labrosse. “There’s safe contact, heads-up football, you name it. We try to take out the element of injury, but a girl or a boy can get injured playing football.
“I think the most important thing is that we need to get young people to exercise, especially when they see an obesity problem,” he said. “The only way to get rid of it is to get kids active.”
As for the future of the girls’ team, Howell said she was confident Wednesday’s game had a positive impact on the student body, and the girls in particular.
“That was so important to me,” Howell said. “It taught me a lot about leadership. It taught me a lot about teamwork.
“I think it’s such a unique sport and to see it work, like a well-oiled machine. Everyone makes their contribution. Everyone has a specific job they need to do.”
“It brought us all together,” she added. “I didn’t have a lot in common with some of the girls when we started, but we had football in common and that really created a sisterhood.”
morning north5:51Sudbury hosts Canada’s first official high school girls’ tackle football game