Rebuilding the focus for Foothills Outlawz as squad aims for return in 2015

As the Western Women’s Canadian Football League prepares for the 2014 campaign, its fourth in league history, the release of the upcoming schedule reflected a visceral decision on the part of the league. Sadly, the Foothills Outlawz shall not be scheduled to participate in any contests. Considering there were only nine players that committed for the upcoming season, league by-laws stated that the squad was obligated to have 24 members that were also registered with Football Alberta. With the effort required to find 15 new players for the season placed a significant time constraint on the franchise.

Okotoks Lady Outlawz  team photo from 2013 (Image obtained from Facebook)

Okotoks Lady Outlawz team photo from 2013 (Image obtained from Facebook)

Sherrie Toews, who has also volunteered in a management role, had the difficult task of addressing the state of the franchise via social media. Handling it with grace and remarkable dignity, Toews addressed the difficult reality that there is a shortage on the roster. The need to build for the future and do things right is tops on the agenda for the Outlawz.

“At the moment, we have a small group of women that want to play football. We do not, unfortunately, have a ready team, with a full roster of players, coaches and management that is ready and able to start practice in less than three weeks. It is unrealistic to think we can recruit min 14 girls in six weeks, plus the other bodies needed…

…I am hoping we can rejoin the roster and head into the 2015 season a strong, healthy team.”

Two generations meet on the football field: Tegan Donnelly and Patti Whitfield (Image obtained from Facebook)

Two generations meet on the football field: Tegan Donnelly and Patti Whitfield (Image obtained from Facebook)

One of the individuals that praised Toews efforts was Linda Craig. Dedicated to the franchise, her reply on social media is a harbinger of optimism, bringing with it the need to realize that this marks the beginning of another chapter.

Like many others that have had to cope with the disappointment, Craig’s reflection brings with it realization that the future can bring with it opportunity. It is that type of outlook that shall provide the franchise with a solid foundation of strong and dedicated women that believe.

“It takes a team to build a team and those that helped out, please know that this is not a failure at all, it is a reality check. With everyone pitching in, it can happen.

That is how all of the other teams were created, including the Rage, especially during its early years as the Rockies. They took a hiatus and came abck bigger and strong because of it and that is what the Outlawz can do, too! I believe in all of you and I know the Outlawz are not done, please keep believing!”

Although 2014 presents the franchise with an obstacle in its young history, there is still a feeling of optimism with the players, providing signs for a positive future. Many have turned to social media to express their sentiments.

One of the members of the offensive line in 2013, Tammy Holishcuk-Holunga understood the frustrations involved. As other franchises in the league had larger rosters, along with players that have had some experience, the Outlawz were in a difficult situation. Except for Roberta Gordica and Stacey Rogowski, the roster was literally comprised of novices and rookies.

“You simply cannot make a team without the number of players required and we learned that the hard way last year by having mature players having to play both sides of the ball meaning no rest breaks during the game.

When you mix athletes not in superb physical shape going up against experience and university-aged players, well it is really devastation in the end. I believe the efforts have been made to recruit those younger, physically capable players.”

Recognizing the club’s sponsors and thanking their fans as the Lady Outlawz reach out to their community in a local parade. (Image obtained from Facebook)

Recognizing the club’s sponsors and thanking their fans as the Lady Outlawz reach out to their community in a local parade. (Image obtained from Facebook)

Sherry Sandberg, one of the emotional leaders for the Outlawz also shared her sentiments on social media. Her outlook on 2015 and the realization that an absence from the league schedule does not diminish its status as a team displays a true dedication to build the team.

“Our hearts and passion are with the Foothills Outlawz; but realistically we could not enter the 2014 season with a partial team with hopes of recruiting 15 ready, willing, able ladies within six weeks. 2014 will be our year to solidify leadership, connect with our community, coordinate team training sessions…and build a strong roster of ladies to enter into 2015 as a more viable, stable and competitive team.”

While the short-term has already seen its setbacks, several moments from 2013 prove that the long-term has promise. There were many great moments for the Outlawz during their inaugural year. Allison Mouland established herself as more than a gamer, but a determined quarterback. Despite the disappointment of not being able to take snaps behind center this year, she approached it with the maturity that makes her a valued leader for the franchise,

“It is sad, but ultimately the right decision. I will miss playing, but it is only temporary. Although it is disappointing that we will not be competing this season, it is going to benefit us in the long run. This gives us the time to recruit, develop, and be ready to compete in 2015.”

Happier days as year-end awards are given in summer 2013 Back row: Drew Coonfer Nelson, Alicia Cook, Alexandria Farmer, Roberta Gordica (who also served as general manager), Jodie Ward and Sherry Uhersky Sandberg Front row: Linda Craig, Sherrie Ladanyi Toews, Natasha Cyr, Dannee-Lee Barr, Allison Mouland and Tegan Donnelly (Image obtained from Facebook)

Happier days as year-end awards are given in summer 2013
Back row: Drew Coonfer Nelson, Alicia Cook, Alexandria Farmer, Roberta Gordica (who also served as general manager), Jodie Ward and Sherry Uhersky Sandberg
Front row: Linda Craig, Sherrie Ladanyi Toews, Natasha Cyr, Dannee-Lee Barr, Allison Mouland and Tegan Donnelly (Image obtained from Facebook)

Georgia Moore, known affectionately as the Aussie Clipper, reflected another great moment for the Outlawz. In August 2013, she became the second WWCFL player selected in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League Draft, a landmark moment not just in franchise history but league history. Dannee-Lee Barr spoke at her daughter’s kindergarten class, inspiring a new generation to follow their dreams.

Rebuilding may serve as a defining moment for the franchise as they ensure those that become Outlawz will make their own sporting dreams come true. The Outlawz are truly part of a generation of amazing female pioneers in the sport. They have already touched the lives of many in their own community and the potential to build is great. Losses may possibly mount in the returning season, but the stoic yet wondrous women that choose to endure such losses are helping to build a solid foundation for the future that will culminate in admiration and respect.

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