As the Western Women’s Canadian Football League continues to grow, one position that continues to gain attention is quarterback.
Among the league’s pivots, one of the finest is Aimee Kowalski of the Regina Riot. In addition to being one of the more popular players in the league, Kowalski is also a member of the cause Athletes Against Bullying.
A multitalented athlete, Kowalski brings a superb athletic background with her to the gridiron. Having participated in soccer at Iowa Wesleyan College and softball at Galveston College (where she was named First Team Academic All-American), the need for competing did not extinguish after her collegiate career. The opportunity to pursue football gave Kowalski the ability to continue excelling in a team sport.
“I've always wanted to play football since I was a little girl," she said. "I was always involved in elite programs in other sports and was a collegiate-level athlete. When you grow up being part of a team and then suddenly it comes to an abrupt stop (due to graduation), you feel as if you're missing a large part of yourself. This was a huge reason why I pursued football: I wanted to be part of a team again.”
Having been named one of two quarterbacks for the Canadian National Team, the opportunity to be able to represent her country is a cherished one. With the Women’s Tackle Football Championships starting in June 2013, Kowalski is looking to improve on the silver medal that Canada gained in 2010:
Football was always the sport I dreamed of playing, but I always thought that my chances of cracking the Canadian National Team would be in a different sport—more specifically, softball. I gave up the opportunity to play softball to pursue football, so this opportunity is like two dreams come true. It makes it an even greater honor to represent Canada, knowing that I will be pioneering this sport for other women in Canada and all around the world.
As quarterback, Kowalski maintains great composure in a very high-pressure position. With a status as one of the elite pivots in the country, Kowalski acknowledged that there are some challenges in playing the position.
“Gaining players' trust and ensuring them that you are thankful that they are there and that you respect what you do," Kowalski said. "In most cases, you cannot say this enough. You want your teammates to know how thankful you are for the work that they put in. If we do not all work together as a team, the play breaks down, which potentially means that I could be in danger.”
While the WWCFL goes into its third campaign, Kowalski is quick to recognize that the quality of play has increased. Despite the criticism that occurred in the first two seasons, Kowalski remarks that the league has a very high quality of coaching, a key factor in the league’s improvement:
The first two years that we were playing, they compared us to bantam boys. I do not really believe that this was a fair comparison because we are adult women. Our plays have advanced. Our play calling has advanced. The coaches are putting more responsibility on me for play progression, reading the field, calling my own plays.
The O-line has stepped it up too with different blocking schemes that are at much higher levels than we were playing at before. Defensively, it looks to me that the amount and efficiency of blitzing has increased, plus I know that they are running some stunts. We're being coached by coaches who once played at professional levels, so they are coaching us the way that they were used to being coached.
Employing great acumen, Kowalski is an articulate and ambitious athlete who brings strong leadership to the Regina Riot. With the quality of coaching on the team and the new recruits, Kowalski is hoping that it can pay championship dividends:
We have a core group of women who this program has been working around. We've had some amazing new additions to the team who have made this program more rounded. We all need to want this as a group. At first it was rewarding to just go out and play football with such an amazing group of girls. It still is rewarding, but now we need to reward ourselves as a team with all of the hard work that we put in and believe that that championship is going to be ours for the 2013 season.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via interviews with the author.