Guelph Women’s Football Team Aims to Increase Women’s Participation in Competitive Sports

“I can’t wait to see where things will be in two years, if not a year, after the end of COVID”

A flag football contact league helps women develop a sense of community and stay active in Guelph and communities across Ontario.

The Guelph Women’s Football Team is a contact flag football team that is part of the Ontario Women’s Intercollegiate Football Association (OWIFA), a competitive flag football league for women in universities and colleges in the Ontario. With a short season from February to March, teams that are part of OWIFA compete in four two-day weekend tournaments.

“I know OWIFA has hundreds of women ready to play football,” said Claire Julian, president of the Guelph women’s football team and executive director of the Ontario Women’s Intercollegiate Football Association.

“I am delighted to see where things will be in two years, if not a year, after the end of COVID,” she said. “I think from here the league will only get bigger.”

For the 2022 season, the Guelph Women’s Football Team is seeking a volunteer coach.

“The pandemic and the shutdown cut at least a month of time that we should have been training and getting to know each other,” Julian said, noting that any help from community coaches is appreciated.

Meaghan Walsh, a former University of Guelph student and team founder, said it was exciting to see the team making calls for community coaching staff.

“It’s exciting to see that there is broader community support for this, it adds to the legitimacy of our sport,” she said.

Walsh remembers forming the Guelph women’s football team in 2018 after playing on a mixed team in 2015. Missing football and not seeing anyone make a team, she decided to do it on her own.

“I was like, ‘Well, if no one else does, then I’m going to do it! ”Said Walsh.

With the help of a management team, Walsh said he’s got the ball rolling and the team keeps getting bigger every year.

“It was a pretty big business, but it was worth it.”

To join Guelph women’s football, players do not need to have prior flag football experience, as women learn the rules and gain skills by participating in the league.

“Once we found a coach, I called out to the players and said, ‘Look, we just want to have fun playing, we’re going to be in two tournaments this year and you don’t need to. ‘no experience “. “said Walsh.

In addition to playing sports on intramural teams, Walsh says there aren’t many opportunities for women to play football at Ontario universities.

“There was nothing, especially not at a level where you’re actually competing with other women in other schools, where it’s completely female-centric,” Walsh said.

Walsh adds that she thinks the aspect of women-centric sport is important to many players who join.

“There’s a huge percentage of women who after high school drop out of competitive sports, so, so,” Walsh said, “and have another opportunity to keep women active, to keep them in. competitive sports, to give them a sense of community. “

When Julian joined her in 2019, she said it was an opportunity to stay active and meet other women.

“A lot of girls get really passionate, to start wondering why women aren’t really represented in football the same way as men’s teams.”

Currently, the Guelph Women’s Football Team is also working to affiliate with the University of Guelph. It is the only team in the league that is not affiliated with a university.

“With more legitimacy, more community support, more women who want this opportunity to play and more schools very strongly supporting their athletes, it definitely goes in that direction,” said Walsh.

Julien agrees.

“Ultimately the goal is to make women’s football a college sport eventually.”

To learn more about the Ontario Intercollegiate Women’s Football Association, click here.

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