St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School made history Wednesday night when they hosted the first-ever Canadian girls tackle football game at the high school level.
The idea of a tackle football team for girls has been in the works for two years now, since coach Kim Labrosse saw an opportunity to play girls football teams in Ottawa who had no one to compete against.
“Basically, I reached out to coach Andy Castellarin at St. Mark's (St. Mark High School in Ottawa) because he had started a girls’ program (for tackle football) and he had no one to play,” coach Labrosse said in an interview with Sudbury.com.
“So I had put forward a team here at St. Ben's, and then COVID hit. And we had 60 girls, everything was going fine. And we never returned back to school,” Labrosse said.
While the COVID-19 pandemic put a pin in sports for most schools, when regulations started lifting this year, Labrosse was adamant about making it finally happen.
“There's 42 girls on the team and then there's my coaching staff,” Labrosse said, describing the members of the team. “And a lot of volunteer coaches and two teachers that are on the coaching staff as well.”
The process has been long but the day finally came on May 18 when the St. Ben’s team played St. Mark’s at the James Jerome Sports Complex football field. Although the St. Ben’s Bears lost 17-14 against St. Mark’s, the team was ecstatic nonetheless.
“It feels good that I can kind of be the first step for younger girls coming into Grade 9 and for the girls who are already on the team who get to play next year. We’re kind of the ones kicking it off,” Jasmine Howell told Sudbury.com in an interview before the game later that day. Howell is an outside linebacker for the Bears and is in her senior year at the high school.
“I think, even if I make a mistake, which is kind of bound to happen, everybody makes mistakes, and it's my first real football game, I'm still proud of us because no matter what we're making history,” Howell said.
Playing on the all-girls tackle football team itself has been empowering and a bonding experience for the student athletes.
“We're all different ages, we don't have too much in common,” Hayley Deschenes said. Deschenes is a running back on the football team and is also in her senior year. “But then football kind of brings us all together. It's really a team sport. You can't have one person being better than everyone else. If you don't have a well functioning team, you can't really do anything. So everyone has to work together.”
“I found a lot of girls at the start of the season were a little shy,” added Amelia Bois, in Grade 11 at St. Ben’s and a defensive tackle on the team.
“And now it's just like, we're all a big sisterhood. And it's just so awesome to have us all together. And playing as a team and really making all this work. It's incredible.”
And while the girls are proud to be kicking off a precedent for the nation, there’s one person in the school who couldn’t be more proud of the team and how far they’ve come.
“Well, I couldn't be more proud of these young women who have the courage to strap on all this equipment and tackle each other,” principal Laura Kuzenko told Sudbury.com. “I'm also so proud of Coach Labrosse and his vision and determination in moving this forward.
“I've watched these girls grow up since Grade 7 and now they're in Grades 11 and 12. And watching them make history is – I'm really just speechless.”
Eden Suh is a new media reporter at Sudbury.com.