As part of the first dynasty in the nascent history of the Western Women’s Canadian Football League, Carisa Polischuk is an articulate and highly accomplished athlete. An alumna from the University of Saskatchewan (although she was not a student-athlete), her opportunity to compete on the Saskatoon Valkyries is a cherished one. With many former University of Saskatchewan Huskies athletes on the team, the Huskies connection has led to a great team chemistry.
Having been part of the first two WWCFL championship teams (both with the Saskatoon Valkyries), Polischuk personifies the spirit of winning. That winning streak will be crucial as she was named to the Canadian National Team that will compete at the Women’s Tackle Football Championships in June 2013.
Unlike some other athletes of the WWCFL, Polischuk participated in the game during childhood. Having fallen in love with the game at an early age, she was a natural to one day play the game at a higher level of competition.
“Ever since watching the boys play pick-up football in grade three during recess and lunch, I knew I wanted to play. So I joined them and I instantly fell in love with the game. Any chance I could get, I wanted to play football and was honestly disappointed if we would play anything else at recess. I was always a tomboy so the boys did not seem to mind letting me play with them. I like to think it’s because I could run, throw, and catch just as good as they could.”
In the inaugural season of the WWCFL, Polischuk also had the opportunity to line up behind the center and take snaps. While there was a learning curve involved, the opportunity to occasionally compete at the glamour position of the game was one that provided Polischuk with enjoyment.
“I played a bit of QB in my first year and it was great to experience the offensive side of the tackle football game. I mostly play QB in my other football leagues but for tackle, I mostly play DB. It was tough because I was learning the game of tackle football for the first time and having to learn both the defensive and offensive plays inside out. So it was a bit nerve-wracking at times but when it all comes together, it’s very rewarding. It’s pretty exciting throwing the ball down the field and watching your receiver get a touchdown as the crowd cheers.”
With her focus on the defensive backfield, Polischuk has emerged as a defensive stalwart. A key member of the pass defense, she has grown into the position. When asked what she likes about the position, she replied,
“I love the challenge of trying to ruin the play for offense. Their goal is to go out and make a big play and our job is to do our best to make their lives miserable. So it’s a lot of fun from that perspective. I also like DB because I’m in a position to hit other players versus waiting to be hit.”
Like many female athletes, Polischuk also maintains employment in order to play her sport of choice. Having worked as a researcher with Institutional Planning and Assessment University Advancement, Polischuk is quick to acknowledge the importance for female athletes to pursue education along with their love of sport.
“I absolutely believe in pursing an education no matter what you do in life. In my family, going to university was just an extension of grade 12. We did not really have a choice. I believe that education can make you a better athlete and that participating in sports can make you a better student. In my mind, the two go hand in hand. And in the event that your sporting career doesn’t pan out due to injuries or other factors, you always have your education to fall back on.”
Employing great acumen, Polischuk is a strong presence on the Huskies roster. A great team player, her focus is on the squad’s success. While she has been fortunate to win two league championships, she reflects on the accomplishment with humility.
“It’s very meaningful to me just to have the opportunity to play tackle football, but to play on a team that has been fortunate enough to win two WWCFL titles; it’s just the icing on the cake.”
“Honestly, the first year was such a whirlwind that I was not even sure what to think about winning the WWCFL title. The second year definitely had more meaning because we knew what was involved and we were able to capture the championship in front of our hometown fans.”
“More importantly though, there was a strong will to win the championship for our amazing coaches and staff who are so committed to our team and who made it possible for us to experience this kind of success. Even if there was no football championship to win, I would still be on the field ready to play.”
As the Valkyries are two-time defending champions, conversation leans towards a third title. While the opportunity to become the first squad in WWCFL history to win three consecutive titles (and establish themselves as one of the great sporting dynasties in Canadian women’s sports) is one that cannot be ignored, Polischuk acknowledges that such an accomplishment will have been earned.
“I think one of the hardest things to do in sport is to repeat as champions because everybody is gunning for you. Even harder than that is three-peating as champions. One of the keys will definitely be to NOT let our previous success get to our heads. That would be a recipe for failure.”
“It’s a new season, with new teams, and new players…a completely new challenge. Nothing that happened in the past matters and that’s exactly the attitude we need to have. I think we will have to work harder than ever this season and not get ahead of ourselves. We need to be focused, listen to our coaches, and execute what we have practiced one play at a time, one game at a time.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”