Amanda McKenna Patrols the Defensive Backfield for the Calgary Rage

Mark Staffieri@@MarkStaff100Contributor IIJune 25, 2013

Image by Candice Ward Photography
Image by Candice Ward Photography

Representing the next generation of stars for the Calgary Rage of the Western Women’s Canadian Football League, Amanda McKenna is hard working, studious and determined. With little experience in competitive sport, her first experience with the Rage came at the invitation of a friend.

While McKenna was reserved at first, she eventually made the bold decision to partake in the game. The result has paid dividends for the Rage as McKenna has blossomed into a dependable defensive back.

“I have honestly never played a sport in my life besides gym class. I was always the one standing off to the side and praying I did not get hit by a flying ball. My friend and fellow teammate Ferne Lavers offered me to come check it out one day.  So, I went down to a sports show where the Rage was allowing people to run some drills and try on the gear.

"Again, I stood on the side and declined trying any (equipment) on. I asked Shelly (team manager) a bunch of questions and wrote my name down when no one was looking. To add to this point, three years ago, I did not know a single thing about football, down to what a receiver was.”

Like many of her teammates on the Rage, McKenna has had the experience of playing both offense and defense. While she began with the franchise as a wide receiver, she quickly discovered a preference for the defensive side of the game. In discussing what she preferred about competing as a defensive back, she remarked,

“I enjoy being a defensive back because I get to hit people (laughs), and the fact that I do not have to try and remember tons of plays. I played wide receiver one year and found it boring and frustrating when I was unable to take out my frustrations in hits.

"The challenge of trying to read the other players and decipher where the ball will be going is something else I enjoy. This year I finally had my first tackle, it was not anything big or flashy, but it sure felt amazing.”

Since the Rage have had many women compete for Team Alberta (at the 2012 National Challenge Cup) and the Canadian National Women’s Team (including the likes of Susie Childress, Annie Tremblay and Erin Walton), McKenna has many veteran stars to look up to as she perfects her game. With the strong sense of family that exists on the team, McKenna knows that she can rely on her teammates.

“I looked up to all of my teammates for guidance and advice. They all have so much to share and have always been willing to lend a hand. I have always been able to turn to anyone and get strong advice.”

While the adrenaline rush of making a tackle is one that enriches the experience of competing on the gridiron, McKenna is a willing student of the game. With the courage of candor, McKenna reflects on her initial sojourn into football, along with the tremendous personal growth that the sport has provided her, in two specific ways.

“A favorite moment, hmm. My first (favorite) was my first hit in a practice drill; might I note (that) I was the one being hit. It was my first year and we were going to run a scrimmage. I still had no idea what was going on and was trying to watch the play to figure out what I needed to do.

"My teammate at the time did not hold back, I could see her barreling towards me out of the corner of my eye and turned around just in time for the hit. She knocked me right off my feet and flat on my ass, I knew at that moment I loved football!  

"Another personal moment for me is when I realized what this team has given me on an emotional level. Most people do not believe me when I say I used to be a very quiet and closed-off type of person; I would sit in a crowd and barely say a word, only there because I had to be. I feel as if this team brought me to life if you will. Each one of the women that have come and gone or are still part of the team have helped me to become more than I dreamed possible. Now I am outgoing and oh so talkative (laughs). I love who I have become.”

Her valiant play and tremendous personal transformation makes McKenna a feel-good story among the remarkable women of the WWCFL. The willingness to try something different and watch her life evolve in a positive way defines a career that is filled with hope and valor.

Her enthusiasm for the game holds the promise that even better moments are yet to come. It is part of a message of encouragement that McKenna provides to women and young girls thinking of trying the game.

“If I can do it, so can you! There is just something about putting on those pads and getting on the field; it is a feeling I cannot even describe but it makes me alive.

"The Rage is made up from such a variety of women, yet we are all one big family who will always be there for each other no matter the situation. Do not ever be afraid to try something new; if it does not work out, you can say you did it.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”