As one of the newer franchises in the budding Western Women’s Canadian Football League, the Okotoks Lady Outlawz possesses a unique quality; a large number of their competitors are also mothers. Perhaps more unique is the fact that several of the mothers share a very common ground.
Among the competitors for the Lady Outlawz, mothers Sandy Dielissen, Tammy Holunga, Sherrie Toews and Jodie Ward compose a special quartet. These four fearless females of the gridiron have a connection off the field, in which their sons play youth football together. Competing with the Eagles Football Team, their sons are part of the Greater Okotoks Football Association.
While Holunga’s children are ecstatic to see her play football, they are also nervous. Although football has strong bloodlines in her family (of note, her husband is an Offensive Line Coach for the Lady Outlawz), there is the aggressive aspect of the game to consider. The possibility of injury is one that lingers in both the male and female game.
“My three sons are both excited and nervous for me playing football. My eldest is 10 years old and is going into his fifth year of playing. He knows first-hand how aggressive this sport is and just does not want to see me get hurt. They are all VERY excited to see us play our pre-season game next Saturday, April 27!”
Incorporating an element of bravery, the motherly influence on the team is one that may serve as the foundation towards building a strong team. As one of many proud mothers to compete for the Lady Outlawz, Holunga believes that with so many mothers composing part of the roster, it helps to make team spirit stronger.
“I would definitely say yes. Even back in the fall of 2012, when word first went out about a women’s tackle football team maybe starting in Okotoks, I can remember us moms in the stands at our sons’ Eagles games/practices. (We discussed) how exciting it would be if WE could be the ones on the field... and here we are! The team spirit that we have is uplifting and admirable, and I’m proud to be a part of that.”
For Sandy Dielissen, a mother of boys aged 12 and 10; the encouragement of her boys helped her in the early parts of training camp. With her boys competing in football, she had two built-in coaches in her household ready to assist, even with a sense of humor included.
“My boys thought it was fantastic. All of a sudden, I had lots of coaches in the house (laughs). I remember after our first practice in full gear, and the moment I thought I was perhaps going to die, my boys, 12 and 10, were very encouraging and told me that I did really good for being old and a mom (laughs).”
“My oldest said he was proud of me for enduring the pain and trying my best, (it must have been the look of exhaustion that made him draw those facts). My youngest has to share with all his friends that I play real football and I always hear the conversation at the end when he says to his buddies ‘No. it’s really true, SHE DOES!!’"
While women’s tackle football is still a nascent concept for many sports fans, it is one where any mother willing to participate in the game brings with her a heroic sense of pride to the game. As many mothers juggle career, family and other endeavors, the knowledge that these women risk it all every time they line up at the line of scrimmage certainly brings with it a strong sense of inspiration.
The fact that the Lady Outlawz also has several young players brings with it a sense of relief for Dielissen. While the differences in age complement each other, it also helps to bring out a sense of play and fun. These elements are crucial in helping to create a positive team culture.
“In actuality, I believe being part of such a great team with a blend of ages has allowed me and my inner "MOM" role to relax a bit!! Playing Women’s Tackle Football has rekindled my young spirit again. I feel fantastic and have challenged myself more than I ever thought I would, since becoming a mother of two boys.”
“The younger ladies on our team have helped pull this part out of me from deep down inside, which I will forever be grateful. Our younger gals on the squad are intelligent and very confident. They have no problems taking on the role of leadership and they do it in a very positive and structured way for being so young; I love that part. It makes us moms really appreciate someone else's decisions, I think.”
Although tackle football may not be for everyone, for many mothers that may be looking to get fit, but thought they never had the time, can seek comfort in the valiant mothers of the Okotoks Lady Outlawz and the WWCFL, respectively.
“I would say yes, perhaps (we are) inspirations to some moms but then crazy to others! I feel that football is a sport where the players must be brave, strong and enjoy the rough contact to enjoy it, so it’s definitely not for everyone.” Holunga added, “The physical training will surely get anyone in shape, but it’s the full contact on the practice and game field that makes women football players in a class of their own in women’s athletics.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”