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.

MWFL looks to ride strong momentum of anniversary season into 2014

With the Maritime Women’s Football League having held its Annual General Meeting on November 30, 2013, the theme of growth was prevalent. As the first Canadian women’s football league to reach the magical ten year milestone, the meeting put forth into place the elements required to propel its ambitions.

Several decisions were made in order to bring about an element of preparation while laying the foundation for strong direction. Of note, a key initiative also involved clarity. The revision of the league’s constitution and by-laws in order to better reflect its growth passed unanimously.

Also part of the agenda was a motion to advance the schedule to an earlier time in the year. Voted in unanimously, opening day for the 2014 season shall be held on April 26, 2014. Postseason play, including the Friendship Bowl and the SupHer Bowl will both be held on June 21, 2014. Compared to 2013, the postseason shall finish before Canada Day.

Plans to implement a jamboree were also passed unanimously. It was announced that the first one is planned to be held from May 17-19, 2014 in the province of Quebec. The league will be partnering with a fairly new women’s team; les Pirates sur Richelieu. Considering the number of French speaking players from the MWFL, a jamboree would help with networking while strengthening bonds with other football playing regions in the country.

In addition, a jamboree would also be held a week after postseason play. The period of June 28-30, 2014 would see the league hold a second jamboree in New Brunswick. Considering the number of MWFL players that give back to the community as coaches, such an event would be a terrific way for young female football players to end their school year.

The planning committee for these events shall feature the four team representatives. With the approval to take on their roles for the 2014 season at the meeting, each franchise features several women that have been key members of the league over the last few seasons. It is a key leadership role that ensures players have a stake in the league’s plans.

Lisa Harlow, the President of Football New Brunswick, shall be representing the Saint John Storm in 2014. Having been a key member of the Halifax Xplosion, Tasha McMaster adds the portfolio of team representative to her remarkable role with the organization.

The Moncton Vipers feature Mel Legere as their representative for 2014. The defending champion Capital Area Lady Gladiators will benefit from Kristen (Shot) Chatterton as their representative. Of note, she was also on the Canadian national team that claimed silver at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds. Such leadership in place ensures that experience is a key factor in the leadership for the upcoming campaign.

Elections for the executive portion of leadership were also part of the meeting. Cheryl O’Leary, a player with the Lady Glads and a mentor coach for Team Canada 2013 succeeds Hannah Hamilton as league president. Hamilton stays on in a vice-presidential capacity. Tina Theriault supplants Saint John competitor Trina Graves as treasurer for 2014.

Amy Salter is another new face on the executive committee. With Moncton quarterback Jenny Miller having served in the Communications post for 2013, Salter assumes that portfolio. Holly Arthur of the Halifax Xplosion retains her position as league secretary.

As the league prepares for its eleventh season in 2014, the AGM is an extension of the league’s commitment towards growth. A strong communication tool, it is a step in the right direction as the league looks toward another decade even stronger than the previous.