CCWFL deserves an A for Effort

As spring and summer signals the beginning of women’s football throughout North America, one notable omission is the highly promising Central Canadian Women’s Football League (CCWFL). After so much effort and the support of Canadian Football League mainstays such as Hamilton and Toronto, the lack of registered players created an unfortunate setback. Not only was the league forced to cancel its inaugural season, but several pages on social media disappeared.

On the surface, some may see the outcome of the CCWFL’s plans for 2015 as a failure. In reality, there were numerous successes. Perhaps the most important was the fact that it helped start the conversation of women’s football. After the Toronto Triumph, an indoor female football team was shrouded in controversy (despite the best efforts of their players), the CCWFL tried to project a more positive and empowering image.

Founded by Aaron Ellis, the league was a way of paying tribute to the efforts of his daughter Tianna, who competed for her local high school team. Having also played with community-based teams, it was not uncommon that Tianna was the only female on the team, struggling with limited playing team. Feeling isolated and not part of team camaraderie, the gridiron experience did not live up to expectations. As such, the CCWFL was a way for her Tianna and other frustrated females the chance to experience the gridiron glories once reserved only for many male athletes.

Although the still-growing sport of female football may be viewed as a novelty, the awareness raised signified that there was potential for developing it into an obsession. The number of soft commitments were enough to stock the four-team league. Unfortunately, it was a case of “kicking the tires”. Whether it was the possible worry of injuries or a lack of time, it was not yet meant to be.

Due to the remarkable level of high school-level female athletes from the GTA that are earning NCAA scholarships in sports such as hockey, soccer and basketball, it is only natural that tackle football does not come to mind as an initial sport to participate in. If the expertise of the CCWFL’s leadership were to regroup and develop an elite flag football league, helping to establish a stronger network, that may be a very strong first step.

Considering that the growth of female flag football (and touch) has made significant inroads at the university level throughout Ontario, there is chance to build on such momentum. There is no question that future talent for the tackle version of the game shall come from these universities (which was how many teams in the United States initially recruited talent).

One of the most important moments for the league was the acquisition of Cheryl O’Leary to its leadership ranks. Highly qualified and accomplished, her experience with the Maritime Women’s Football League (the longest running female sports league in Canada) as a player, coach and league executive was exactly what the budding league required.

Her presence brought instant credibility to the league. Having also worked as a mentor coach with the Canadian national women’s team, O’Leary is able to evaluate talent. Considering the untapped talent pool that exists in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), it could greatly improve Canada’s chances in international play. An astute football individual like O’Leary could certainly be an ideal mentor for such promising players.

Perhaps in 2016, O’Leary can build on what has transpired and form a traveling team, rather than a league. A team could play exhibition games against the IWFL’s Division III clubs or participate in one of the MWFL’s annual jamborees. A team would not be as ambitious as a league, but it would be a meaningful first step, also ensuring that the intention of the CCWFL was meaningful.

Another aspect that the CCWFL had also shown commitment to included skills camps for aspiring female players. Going forward, those still committed to the concept of the league could remain involved in the game by getting involved in said camps. Over time, there is no question that it would help to develop confidence.

In the short-term, this may prove to be the most useful way to develop talent and grow interest. It would also benefit from knowledgeable people like O’Leary to give seminars, and share her experiences, while possibly addressing the issue of injuries.

The beauty of the sport is that there is room for everyone. In the United States, there was one instance where a grandmother actually played the game. Despite its growth, the success stories about the sport helping many women believe in themselves, overcoming body image issues and creating lifelong friendships forms a significant legacy.


CCWFL raised awareness with presence at National Women’s Show

At the 2014 edition of the National Women’s Show, the Central Canadian Women’s Football League was among the exhibitors proudly hoping to make its presence felt. Hosted in Toronto from November 7-9, it wa a sterling opportunity for the league to raise awareness concerning its on-field product.

Part of an exciting new chapter for women’s sport in the province of Ontario, the CCWFL has already attended various events in the past six months. As a side note, the league has also seen the addition of people in its administrative function, helping to bring more leadership and ideas.

Back on June 28, Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne attended a CCWFL event, showing her support. It is the type of momentum that the league hopes will only continue to build.

Of note, its booth was located at the travel and adventure section of the show (at booth number 504), the league is within one month of opening registration with anticipated practices beginning in January 2015. In 5 months, the budding league has already 100 soft registrants, enough to fill two rosters.

All individuals were welcome to drop by the booth to learn more about the league and present any inquiries. Information shall also be provided about the All-Canadian All-Star camps.

Established as a not-for-profit organization, the inspiration for the league was the brainchild of Aaron Ellis. Of note, Ellis was proudly among the league executives representing the CCWFL at the Women’s Show. He was joined by Cheryl O’Leary, who shall make her first appearance representing the league. She has joined the league as the VP of Operations, with experience ranging from the MWFL to the Canadian National Team.

Nicole Allen becomes newest member of CCWFL’s growing family

While the province of Ontario may be somewhat late to the party when it comes to female football, the Central Canadian Women’s Football League is working towards propelling the game into unchartered territory. Although the ambitious league is still gathering its leadership group and establishing its foundation, a photo and video shoot which took place on June 7 at the University of Guelph Varsity Stadium brought with it the chance to introduce an enthusiastic and charismatic new face.

Nicole Allen represents the passion and drive that the CCWFL is hoping to bring to women’s football. Bringing a breadth of athletic experience to the gridiron as well, Allen is a perfect fit. Having competed in rugby, soccer and field hockey, the chance to play elite female football represents the next chapter in her sporting journey.

From a football perspective, Allen may be a novice as a player but brings a wonderful series of experiences. Serving on the support staff for various men’s programs, she understands the importance of teamwork and the camaraderie that defines the culture of a team. Of note, she has worked in athletic therapy for the University of Guelph Gryphons varsity football program, where she also works with the women’s volleyball and rugby programs.

In 2012, a stint as a therapy intern for the Toronto Argonauts provided Allen a brush with history. With the 2012 edition of the Grey Cup signifying its centennial, Allen was part of the support staff that saw the Argonauts finish its season hoisting the coveted Cup. Such qualification is enhanced by the fact she proudly serves as Team Ontario Football’s head athletic therapist. Her travels with Team Ontario have taken her throughout North America, including Alberta, Nova Soctia and south of the border in the football mad state of Texas.

Of all the elements that makes Allen a likeable personality for the league; it is her background off the field. In addition to her athletic accomplishments, Allen is a highly educated individual. In 2009, she graduated from McMaster University in Hamilton with Honors. Majoring in Kinesiology while earning a minor in Health Studies, she continued her studies at Sheridan College. Beginning in 2013, Allen, who also holds a Bachelor of Applied Health Sciences, has been a Certified Athletic Therapist with two associations; the Canadian Athletic Therapists Association and the Ontario Athletic Therapist Association.

Football fans can certainly expect to see more of Allen in the foreseeable future. An upcoming poster campaign will be graced by Allen’s image, helping to spread the message that the women of Ontario are ready for their turn to tackle the gridiron game. In addition, a free skills camp on June 28 at the Trio Sportsplex in Vaughan (located north of Toronto) will be open for women 16 and over. Allen shall be one of many women in attendance, enthusiastic about this new era in women’s sport in Ontario as the CCWFL looks to value the talent of the player while honoring their passion to play the game.

Ambitious CCWFL would add new dimension to female football in Canada

With plans to launch in 2015, the Central Canadian Women’s Football League holds the potential to make the game of female football one that is truly coast-to-coast. Based out of Nobleton, Ontario (located north of Toronto), the league is aiming for a four-team league in its inaugural season.

For its planned 2015 season, all franchises shall compete in the Greater Toronto Area, while a projected two to four expansion teams shall be added every year afterwards, with the goal of having a province-wide league. With the next IFAF Women’s World Football Championships taking place in 2017, it would be a tremendous triumph should the CCWFL manage to provide some players for the Canadian contingent.

Although the league has not yet announced any information on the franchises, let alone any coaches or potential managers, early partnerships have been arranged in the hopes of developing talent. Its most notable involves the Super Elite Football, which is sponsored by Under Armour. In 2013, SEF held camps in three provinces with over 1000 players participating.

While SEF has never held a female football camp before, it still holds the potential to serve as a measuring stick as to whether potential players have the ability or not. With due deference, there is no question that the concept of a female camp is a work in progress and will only improve with time. Taking into account that instructors feature CFL players and university coaches, it is the most fundamental learning tool available to women in Ontario to develop football skills.

For potential players intimidated by the concept of a camp, there is also the opportunity to engage the services of Toronto Argonauts wide receiver John Chiles. Offering one-on-one training for players looking to compete at the offensive positions of quarterback, running back and wide receiver, Chiles will assist in the instruction of technical skills, speed, agility and quickness.

An innovation that the CCWFL has introduced is its rookie status. Similar to NCAA Football teams redshirting players, the rookie status initiative is one where 16-17 year old players have the opportunity to get involved with their respective teams. Although they will not be permitted to play in any regular season or playoff contests, their designated rookie status would allow them to practice and train.

In theory, the CCWFL is a positive start in helping stimulate growth for the game in Canada’s largest region. Considering that Ontario has not been represented on the Canadian teams that captured silver at the 2010 and 2013 IFAF Worlds, such a trend cannot continue. With its population of over 10 million, Ontario certainly has elite talent that can one day contribute to a gold medal finish.

The goal of serving as the engine for growth of female football in Ontario is admirable. While there has been encouragement from the likes of Football Canada and Canadian leagues such as the MWFL and the WWCFL, this new league holds the potential to add a new dimension to female sport, creating with it new athletic heroes and the chance for many empowered women to become role models.

One of the great successes of female football in Canada is that it has allowed women of all ages, body types and backgrounds to transform their lives and experience the thrill of team sport. For other women who may have played competitive sports in the past, it helps add a new chapter to their athletic endeavors. Should the CCWFL be able to maintain this legacy, it shall certainly be a victory for the growth of female football in Canada.