Sharks looking to grow women’s tackle football in Kingston

A new women’s tackle football league is launching this year in Ontario, and a team from Kingston will be among those competing during the inaugural season. Photo via Football Ontario.

A new sports team is seeking to grow the game of women’s tackle football in the Kingston area, as the Kingston Sharks get set to compete in the brand-new Ontario Women’s Football League [OWFL] this season. According to Head Coach Cameron Davidson, who currently serves as a running back coach with the Queen’s Gaels, the idea for a full-time team in the Kingston region came from several local members of the Team Ontario women’s tackle football program.

“We had a couple of girls locally who were playing with Team Ontario, and the OWFL was firing up and they looked at all their friends at Team Ontario who had [local] teams, [but] they didn’t really have anybody here in Kingston [to compete with]. I work with the Queen’s men’s and women’s football teams… so, I was just kind of hearing these conversations and stepped up to take the lead on getting the program going in Kingston,” Davidson said of his involvement with the organization. 

Davidson credited several other team members for playing a significant role in making the Sharks a reality in time for the 2023 season. “Another one of our players, Mya Neff, had a huge role in getting it off the ground, as well with recruiting. And [then there’s] Lesley Kendall… she’s kind of our team manager extraordinaire, and she’s kind of done it all to get [the team going],” he said. 

With the team still in its infancy, Davidson noted they have made steady progress so far this spring, as the women prepare for their first-ever game later this month. “The season is just about to start, we had our first equipment fitting last night. We’ve had four practices with flags, just kind of getting everybody into it,” said the coach. 

While many OWFL teams will take the field this weekend at York University as part of a league “Jamboree,” the Sharks will sit out that event, as the team continues to prepare for its first official game on Saturday, May 20, 2023, against the Guelph Junior Gryphons. “We are not participating in [the Jamboree]. We decided to just kind of get into gear this week. We’ll have a few [more] practices before… our first game at home in Kingston,” noted Davidson. 

Starting a team from the ground up has come with its fair share of challenges. According to Davidson, the biggest difficulty, so far, has been recruiting enough young women to fill out the team’s roster. “Obviously, with getting a football team off the ground, it’s tough to have people looking like they’re going to need to play both offence and defence and have to take a lot of reps. Football is maximum energy for six seconds, and rest for 20, then do it again… so, it’s tough if you don’t have too many people out there to give you a breather every once in a while,” he explained. 

“Right now, it’s all about player recruitment and trying to have more people check the energy of women’s football because it’s a really special sport. It’s definitely taking off right now, which is tremendous. Having the OWFL is awesome for the promotion of women’s sports. I think that there’s a huge capacity for women’s football to take off. The more people that hear about the Sharks and are at least interested, [we hope they] come out and see what it’s all about. That’s the big goal for us,” added Davidson.

Despite the fact that the Sharks are Kingston’s first organized women’s tackle football team, Davidson said the sport has been around for years. However, until now, opportunities didn’t always exist for female players to follow the sport through multiple levels of competition. “It’s not something new, it’s been around for a long time. But, I think having it at a grassroots level and being able to develop it up through youth football, all the way to now having some really well organized and professional opportunities here in Canada, [is big].

“I think now is a really exciting time for women’s tackle football. There are a lot of great people working extremely hard to develop it. So, it’s really at the cusp of taking off and blowing up to become even bigger,” Davidson added. 

Looking to one of Kingston’s most prominent and longstanding sporting organizations, Davidson remarked that he’d like to see the Sharks have the same longevity as the Queen’s Gaels football team. “At Queen’s, we talk about our 141-year football tradition. So, I hope to see the Sharks one day have a 141-year-old football tradition,” he said with a laugh. 

The Kingston Sharks’ inaugural season officially kicks off on Saturday, May 20, 2023, at 2:00 p.m., as they play host to the Guelph Junior Gryphons at Micklas-McCarney Field. The following weekend, the Sharks travel to Gatineau, Quebec, for their first-ever road game. The team will then go on to play three more games before wrapping up the regular season at home on Saturday, Jun. 24, 2023, against the Peel Panthers. 

While the start of the season is now less than two weeks away, Davidson noted the team is still looking to add a few more players to the roster. “Right now, we’re around 11 or 12 [players] that we have suited up in gear. We would happily take on the full roster size of 24 if we had the interest — the more the merrier,” the coach said. 

Athletes aged 19 or younger who are interested in joining the team are encouraged to reach out to the Sharks through their Instagram account or email head coach Cameron Davidson at [email protected]

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