Having competed for three seasons with the Calgary Rage, Stacey Rogowski provides the expansion Okotoks Lady Outlawz with a veteran perspective. Playing for the newest entry in the Western Women’s Canadian Football League, Rogowski extols all the qualities of leadership.
As an athlete that has enjoyed all types of competition, Rogowski has a sporting background that covers a wide breadth of endeavors. Her leadership was evident at a young age as she helped make high school rugby a reality for competitive girls.
“My entire life has always revolved around sports. I was the type of athlete that would give any sport a try. I started out as playing on a boy’s hockey team when I was 8 years old to playing sports like soccer, basketball and rugby through high school. I even helped start up my high school rugby team because my friends and I were tired of the boys having all the fun with the full contact sports.”
“I never really seriously considered playing football in high school, as I knew I would be the only girl on the field. Yet, I was still at all the games watching and cheering the team on. So when a friend mentioned a women’s football team, I knew I had to play. I instantly fell in love with the intensity and team aspect of the game.”
Rogowski’s first joined the Calgary Rage in 2010, when the franchise was part of the former AFFL (Alberta Female Football League). When the AFFL absorbed teams from Manitoba and Saskatchewan to become the WWCFL, she became one of many women’s football players that suddenly became pioneers.
“My first three seasons with the Rage were amazing. I broke my ankle in my first season, so that was not what I would call successful. In my second year, I was named outstanding offensive back of the year. When I started with the Rage, it was tough. As the Rage were just going into their second year, the starting couple years are always tough for (new) teams.”
Those first three seasons with the Rage provided Rogowski with the confidence to persevere. In having had the opportunity to compete with a close-knit group of players, the camaraderie and feeling of family enriched the experience.
“Learning football and getting that instinct you need comes through games and experience. The team got better as the years went on, and the players are super competitive and have a ton of heart. The coaching staff was always really great, and I do credit them and my previous teammates for making me into the confident player I am today.”
Although Rogowski joined the expansion Lady Outlawz for the 2013 season, the roots of respect and friendship that were established in Calgary still bear fruit.
“I didn’t leave the Rage on bad terms. In fact I still talk to handful of them weekly, some even daily. Barry Hunter was the coach of Calgary Rage when I first joined them—he and I had a good player-coach relationship and I really enjoyed playing for him.”
“When he told me he was going to start a team in Okotoks, I thought it would be great to help start up anew. I knew I could be a player that could bring experience and knowledge to these new players.”
Despite the fact that the Lady Outlawz are still looking for their first win in franchise history, Rogowski understands that the inaugural season is a learning experience. After suffering from an ankle injury in her first year with Calgary, Rogowski understands about adversity, character and the need to remain a positive attitude.
“This year has been a struggle for our “rookie team." I just try to keep my teammates positive and tell them to learn as much as they can.”
With the blend of younger and older players on the Lady Outlawz, the diverse mix leads to a special dynamic. As the team features several mothers, their patience and maturity helps to provide a calming presence for the nascent franchise.
“We do have quite the age range on this team. I think we all balance each other pretty well. To me, I do not care how old you are—all I care about is how much heart you play with and what you bring to the game. I know every one of my teammates regardless of age will give it 100 percent on the field.”
“I think it is great that we have moms out there playing with younger players. Us younger ones know that we will always be taken care of and looked out for from our “football mommas." We even have a mother-daughter pair playing on our team. Trust me, the two of them compliment each other. No one wants to disappoint their moms, and no mother wants to disappoint her daughter!”
While Rogowski is one of the younger players on the team, her experience contributes to a unique situation, as older players seek advice on the game from her. Although the experience makes Rogowski the de facto leader for the Lady Outlawz, it is a role that she accepts with great pride and devotion.
“I definitely see myself as a leader on the team, and I do know that my teammates look to me for leadership and experience. From the very start of the season, the coaches and players all made me feel (like), and almost expected me to be, a leader without having to say it.”
“My teammates ask me about technique and any pointers I have for them. The coaches know they can throw me into any position and ask me to do anything, and I will give everything to succeed.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”