Wednesday was a historic day in Saskatchewan for junior female football. The Moosomin Generals will play host to the Melville Vipers in the first ever midget girls tackle football game.
“They’re all wearing their game jerseys to school today, they’re pretty wound up and ready to go for tonight,” Generals coach Jason Schenn said.
Schenn who also is the president and GM of the Generals football club said this is a huge deal for the province as it gives more people the opportunity to share the love of the sport.
He said they’ve always had girls play with the boys teams but he felt as though there was a need for an all female squad.
“I was trying to recruit boys and girls around the neighbourhood here to try and get involved and one of the factors I found, was that girls were interested but a little bit concerned about playing with the boys so to speak,” he said.
“We had about 10 per cent of the club made up of girls and I really wanted to have that growth and what I did found, was that the girls who were interested, said they would play if they could play in a girls only type of setting.”
That’s where the idea of a midget girls only team blossomed. Schenn said the team is mostly made up of girls from the town and some who heard about of the program from out of town, that were eager to join.
The midget category is grades eight through 12.
Melville football coach jumps on board
A little bit after the Generals team got started, Melville’s John Svenson thought the idea was superb and started asking around if girls in town would be willing to start a team.
Svenson said it didn’t take long for girls to commit to play, most from Melville but also from surrounding communities such as Lemberg, Abernethy and Yorkton.
“There’s even a girl from Swan River, Manitoba that drives about two and a half hours each way to practice with the team three times a week,” Svenson said.
As he’s coached woman’s football in the province along with Canada’s national women’s team, Svenson couldn’t be happier for the midget team to evolve.
“It’s just — surreal,” he said. “There’s just something about coaching a female team just because it’s something totally new, not only in our community, but the province and it’s something I can see the need for.”
He explained he’s personally witnessed female athletes get their start in professional football in their late 20s or even late 30s due to discovering the game later in life. Which, in his opinion, is far too late as men typically start playing professionally by 18.
“That makes no sense to me as a football coach and as a person that wants to promote the game in this province,” he said. “I think we have strong football as it is at the senior women’s level and in the woman’s Canadian football league. So we want to try and get those girls in the game sooner and to have girls go to play football when they’re 18 not when they’re 28!”
Coaches hope more teams come forward
As the two game, spring season will come to a close on Monday when the Vipers host the Generals, both coaches hope this is the just the start of something big.
Svenson said although some parents might be a little nervous around their child playing tackle football, it’s all about education and knowing there are potential risks in everything such as everyday activities most would take part in. Which, Schenn echoed.
Schenn also challenged other coaches to build upon as he feels more and more people could benefit from the teamwork in the game.
“I really think that in terms of the future of our sport it’s important to be more inclusive of females in sport, immigrants and whoever else that’s around us because they don’t necessarily have the background in football — but I think once they get involved in it they’ll really enjoy it,” Schenn said.
“I mean the girls (and others who have already joined the Generals), have definitely done just that!”