The school hosted the first-ever Canadian high school-level girls’ tackle football game this week, and although they lost the game 17-14, the players were thrilled to hit the gridiron in a full-contact game
St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School made history Wednesday night when it hosted Canada’s first-ever girls’ soccer game at the high school level.
The idea of a girls’ tackle soccer team has been in the works for two years, since coach Kim Labrosse saw an opportunity to play Ottawa against girls’ soccer teams that were unmatched.
“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 had no one to play with,” said Coach Labrosse in an interview with Sudbury.com.
“So I had a team set up here in St Ben’s and then COVID hit. And we had 60 girls, everything went well. And we never went back to school,” said Labrosse.
While the COVID-19 pandemic put a pin in esports for most schools, Labrosse was determined to finally make it happen when regulations were lifted this year.
“There are 42 girls in the team and then there’s my coaching staff,” said Labrosse, describing the members of the team. “And many volunteer coaches and two teachers who are also part of the coaching staff.”
The process was long, but on May 18, the day finally came 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 to St Mark’s 17-14, the team was still enthusiastic.
“It feels good that I can be the first step for younger girls coming into 9th grade and for the girls who are already on the team and get to play next year. We’re kind of the ones starting the game,” Jasmine Howell told Sudbury.com later in the day in a pre-game interview. Howell is an outside linebacker for the Bears and is a senior in high school.
“I think even if I make a mistake, which somehow has to happen, everyone makes mistakes, and it’s my first real football game, I’m still proud of us because no matter what we do, we make history,” Howell said .
Playing on the all-girls tackle football team itself was an empowering and bonding experience for the student-athletes.
“We’re all different ages, we don’t have too much in common,” said Hayley Deschenes. Deschenes is a running back on the soccer team and is also in her senior year. “But football somehow brings us all together. It really is a team sport. One person cannot be 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 the girls were a little shy early in the season,” added Amelia Bois, a 11th grader at St. Ben’s and a defensive tackle on the team.
“And now it’s just like that, we’re all one big sisterhood. And it’s just so great to have us all together. And to play as a team and really make it all work. It’s incredible.”
And the girls are proud of it to set a precedent for the nationthere is one person at the school who couldn’t be prouder of the team and how far they’ve come.
“Well, I couldn’t be prouder of these young women who have the courage to strap on all this gear and attack each other,” principal Laura Kuzenko told Sudbury.com. “I’m also so proud of Coach Labrosse and his vision and determination to drive this forward.
“I’ve watched these girls grow up since 7th grade and now they’re in 11th and 12th grade. And to see them make history is – I’m really speechless.”
Eden Suh is a new media reporter at Sudbury.com.