'Electric' atmosphere as Sudbury sees first all-girls football game
St. Ben's Bears play hard in 17-14 loss to Ottawa's St. Mark Lions
Football fans in Sudbury got their first look at St. Benedict Secondary School's all-girls team Wednesday afternoon, as the Bears hosted St. Mark Catholic School from Ottawa.
Organizers for the game are claiming it was the first official all-girls tackle football game in Canada.
Although the Bears lost 17-14 to the Lions, St. Ben's student Jasmine Howell said the feeling on the field was "truly electric" as the team made history by being the first girls' varsity tackle football team in Sudbury.
"Even though we did lose, to me and all the other girls, it didn't feel like a loss," Howell said. "We were a part of something so much bigger than ourselves and kind of paving the way for other girls in women's sports."
Howell, who's finishing Grade 12, said she embraced the role of mentor to the school's younger athletes.
"I wanted to make football maybe less scary for the younger girls, kind of be a little bit of a role model," she said. "I also wanted to get out there and hit somebody, get up there and make contact just like the boys."
Although several high school teams in the region have fielded flag football teams, the Bears managed to put together a roster for the full-contact version of the game.
The risk of injury, and the thought of bruising physical contact, didn't phase Howell. Coach Junior Labrosse said despite its reputation for hard-hitting play, proper teaching and coaching have made the sport relatively on par with other sports, as far as injuries are concerned.
"The way that football is taught today is nothing like it was taught when I played," Labrosse said. "There's safe contact, heads-up football, they call it. We try to take the element of the injury out of it, but a girl or a boy can get hurt playing soccer.
"The biggest thing I think is we need to get young people moving, 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's certain Wednesday's game made a positive impact on the student body, and on girls, especially.
"This 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 seeing how it works, like a well-oiled machine. Everybody's doing their part. Everybody has a specific job that they need to be doing."
"It all brought us 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 it really created a sisterhood."