In working towards building the presence of the Halifax Xplosion (of the Maritime Women's Football League) and increasing awareness with sports fans, Natasha McMaster is an inspiration for women’s football. Known affectionately as Tasha, her efforts to raise awareness of the league is an admirable quality. Her stoic efforts off the field are helping to ensure that these pioneers of the gridiron gain recognition.
Like many women in football, McMaster’s initial exposure came through rugby. Carrying her love of rugby through her university years, the physical aspect of the game kept McMaster highly motivated to compete.
“Growing up, I did a lot of individual sports like gymnastics, swimming and Tae Kwon Do. Although I enjoyed all of these things, it was never quite the right fit. When I got to high school, I found Rugby and that was it, I loved it. I was never the best at it, but I loved the contact and physical nature of the game, as well as being part of a team, it was like family. This carried on into my first few years of university.”
“Eventually, life and school took over for a while and sports took a backseat. It had been about four years since I was able to play when I found out about a women's football team here in Halifax, and my interest was piqued.”
Despite the absence from athletic competition, the existence of the Halifax Xplosion triggered the spark that ignited her desire to compete again. While it seemed like the twilight of her rugby career signaled the end of her athletic endeavors, football provided her with a new outlet for her competitiveness to flow.
“I had watched football with friends but never thought that I would ever have an opportunity to play! Little did I know that football would become such a huge part of my life. From the minute that first practice started, I knew this was what had been missing for me with sports.”
“It is competitive, physical, challenging and more fun than I can explain. I would have never thought that five years later I would still be here, but every season that passes is better than the last and the friends I have made have become like family.”
Named as a 2012 MWFL All-Star on defense, it was validation for the hard work and effort she exerted as she pursued a career in a game she loved. Competing on the same team with multiple MWFL All-Star selections, such as Ashley Howatt and Emily Armsworthy, the All-Star nod had signified that McMaster had truly arrived as an elite competitor.
“I was beyond proud. I have admired so many of the women in the MWFL over the last few seasons, there is so much talent. So, to be named among them was an honor.”
As part of her effort to help promote the MWFL, McMaster and a teammate had the opportunity to appear on a morning show broadcast on the Global Television Network throughout Atlantic Canada. Working assiduously to help ensure that the MWFL is part of the sporting conversation in Atlantic Canada, the opportunity to promote the game on morning television was a breakthrough moment.
“Over the last few seasons with the Xplosion, I have had the opportunity to be on the team executive. Moments like being on Global TV are what we work so hard for. Besides being a bit nervous, I was very excited and pleased to be able to spread the word about our team and about the league.”
“Even though the Xplosion have been around since 2006 and the league has existed since 2004, so many people do not know we exist. We have been working tirelessly to change that. This opportunity in particular was huge for us and we hope to gain many more like it!”
With 2013 marking the MWFL’s milestone tenth anniversary season, it is a great point of pride for McMaster to be competing. A remarkable milestone in Canadian women’s sporting history (in comparison, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League is only six years old), the season represents an opportunity to celebrate the game and its potential for future glories.
“It is fantastic! Ten years may not seem like much to some, but I think it is huge in women's football. We struggle for support and recognition, therefore, ten years is a huge accomplishment! All the women who are and have been involved should be very proud!”
“We were the first in Canada and want to continue to be a great influence in the sport of football and to grow and expand as a league.”
Perhaps, the most unique quality about McMaster is that she is also a mother. In balancing football, family and career, she provides new meaning to the term multi-tasking. Her status as a mother (many competitors in the MWFL and WWCFL have children) might be the most shining example of the advice she has for women that are interested in competing,
“The biggest piece of advice I have is not to assume. Do not assume you are too old, out of shape, or that you could not possibly be any good at football. That is the beauty of this sport, there is a place for everyone.”
“We have women of all ages, abilities and skill levels. Some women who end up playing had never even watched a game before joining the team. If it is something that you think you would like to try, I say give it a chance. It is an opportunity in sports most women do not get, and I promise you it is an experience you don't want to miss.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”