Photo courtesy Candice Ward

Local team brings women’s tackle football to Calgary

By Kristy Koehler, July 17 2018 —

If you drive by McMahon Stadium — best known as the home of the Calgary Stampeders — you’ll see a banner advertising another local football team, the Calgary Rage. A women’s tackle football team, the Rage are part of the Western Women’s Canadian Football League. Formed in 2011, the WWCFL has eight teams that compete in the Western and Prairie conferences.

The Rage play full-contact football, governed by the Canadian Amateur Rulebook — the same set of rules the University of Calgary Dinos adhere to. There are only a few minor differences to the Canadian Football League’s rules.

Jenna Graham and Emma Goldsney serve as team captains for the Rage. Goldsney, a second-year U of C student, is a receiver, while Graham plays defensive back. Neither were die-hard football fans before joining the team but were looking for a fun, highly competitive sport.

Graham says people are often surprised and impressed after learning about the existence of a women’s tackle football league but adds that there are always dissenters who can’t imagine it being as exciting as men’s football. Goldsney said that those naysayers would be persuaded after seeing a game.

“Come out to a game. When people come out to watch it changes their perspective,” she said.  “They see how fast it is and how hard-hitting it can be.”

Ultimately, though, neither player pays much mind to detractors.

“Get on board or not. We’re going to play anyway,” Graham said.

A main concern for full-contact sport, and particularly football, is player safety. Both Graham and Goldsney say their coaches are well-versed in concussion protocol and injury prevention. The Safe Contact Program, part of Canada’s National Coaching Certification Program, teaches players to block and tackle as safely as possible.

Graham values the team’s diversity and says the players run the age gamut, with members ranging from just under 18 to 50.

“That’s what is so fun about the game,” she said. “Everyone gels really well together and practices are a ton of fun.”

Many of the players commute from surrounding towns in Southern Alberta, travelling from places like Brooks and Vulcan to gear up for the Rage.

This year, the Calgary Rage advanced to the WWCFL Western Conference Semi-Final before falling to the Saskatoon Valkyries in a 30–6 final. The Prairie Conference teams have been a dominant force in the WWCFL but Graham and Goldsney are confident the Rage will find their way to a championship soon. Both say the Rage are full of talent and are excited about the upcoming season. The league currently plays a two-month season that begins in May. There is some talk of expanding the season and the team is continuing fundraising efforts to offset travel and equipment costs.

The remaining months of the year are still busy for the team between practices, training camps, fundraising and outreach efforts. The team is always recruiting new members and welcomes all women to their tryouts, even those who have never played a team sport before. Goldsney hopes to increase awareness of women’s tackle football near the U of C and get more athletes involved.

Calgary Rage games typically take place at Shouldice Park. Tickets cost $5. More information is available on the team’s website.

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