Outlawz in the classroom
Football: Okotoks moms sharpening pigskin knowledge for inaugural season
By: By Remy Greer
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013 06:00 am
Some Okotoks moms are going back to school before they tackle a new sport.
The Okotoks Lady Outlawz have held four classroom sessions at the Okotoks Library where head coach Barry Hunter engrains the new players in the fundamentals of football in preparation for their inaugural season in the Western Women’s Canadian Football League (WWCFL).
“We go through all the playbooks, the rules, the basics and teach them the positions,” Hunter said. “So come February to mid March when we actually get in the gym they will actually know some of the plays already. Then we will be able to hit the field in April and start practicing and I won’t have to teach them all over again.”
Hunter, the former head coach of the WWCFL’s Calgary Rage, used similar classroom simulations to prepare for the spring-summer league schedule. Given the inexperience in football of many members on the roster, the Outlawz have proven to be quick studies.
“A lot of the moms their kids are all playing football in Okotoks so they’ve got some football knowledge,” Hunter said. “I gave them a pop quiz on their first day and they knew the stuff. It was basic Canadian football and amateur rules and they knew it.”
Well, not all of them.
Okotokian Jodi Clisdell joined the Outlawz with a completely blank slate.
“I’ve never done anything like this in my life and I wanted to try something new. I don’t know anything about football,” Clisdell said. “I’ll watch it, the Super Bowl and those games, but it’s a sport I never understood.”
Clisdell, mom to Okotoks hockey players Braden, 8, and Jase, 6, figured the time was now to get involved in team sports.
“Most of the girls here are so new too. So we’re kind of in this together,” she said. “I just turned 30 and this is a whole life changing experience.”
She’s neighbours with Outlawz player Tatrina Medvescek-Valentine, a veteran of the WWCFL with the Calgary Rage, and like her teammate, Clisdell wants to become a force to be reckoned with on the field.
“When I look at (Tatrina) I don’t see her as a football player, but when I hear how good and how strong she is that’s pretty amazing,” Clisdell said. “I definitely don’t fit the profile, but I want people to be surprised when I play football.”
Jodie Ward will be no stranger to the physicality of football as a kick boxer and former lacrosse player, tools she will need as a linebacker for the Outlawz.
“It all flows nicely together with the hits,” said Ward, also a football mom with children in the Atom and Peewee Foothills Eagles programs. “Tristan has been in it for four years now and learning the game and seeing the passion they have for (football) I certainly wanted to give it a try.”
Ward’s always had an eye for the defensive side of the game rendering the instruction of a fly-pattern, button-hook and wide-receiver screen akin to learning a foreign language.
“Both my boys play defence so right now learning the offensive plays for me it’s been a little challenging to wrap my head around some of those plays,” she said. “It’s kind of like going back to high school and studying again.”
Ewelina Kozak brings coaching experience to the Outlaws as an assistant with the Atom Eagles last summer, a team featuring her 10-year-old son Ricky.
“The assistant coach I worked under, Shane Kessel, re-instilled the passion for me defensively,” Kozak said. “And when I heard about the team I thought it’s our time. It’s the moms’ turn.”
Kozak, an NFL supporter and ardent fan of Baltimore Raven linebacker Ray Lewis, has found the Outlawz class sessions educational when it comes to Canadian, yet foreign, rules such as a rouge or 55-yard line.
“It’s pretty in-depth with all the plays we have to know and different routes. It’s a lot smarter game than people think,” said Kozak, who will line up in the secondary for the Outlawz. “I’m very excited to get out there on the field.”
Michelle Kessel has been waiting nearly 20 years to get back on the gridiron as a former high school flag football player in Toronto.
“It was a great introduction and it just fueled the fire to want to find it now,” Kessel said of her football past. “It’s an adjustment because the mind is willing, but we’re going to see if the body is able to keep up.”
The former defensive lineman has been looking to re-live her glory days for a few years now.
“Now that the kids are a little older and the team is closer to home I’m really excited about jumping in and playing.” said Kessel, a mother of three in Okotoks. “I can’t wait to hit somebody. To get all the equipment on and to be on the field during that (first) game I don’t think there’s anything like it.”
The WWCFL is an inter-provincial full-contact women’s football league with a May to July schedule. The Outlawz will also be tackling south of the border this summer with a trip to Salt Lake City for an exhibition joust with the Utah Lynx slated for late July.
Join the Outlawz
As the inaugural campaign beckons the Okotoks Lady Outlawz are looking to add numbers both on the field and on the sidelines.
The Outlawz currently boast a roster of just over 20 players and are looking to reach 30 before the start of the season in early May.
“We’re still taking players. The coaches we will get them caught up,” Hunter said. “A lot of the girls will find it easier to learn as they’re on the field doing it as opposed to classroom sessions.”
Hunter is looking to add some other voices on the sidelines too as the Outlawz are in need of coaches for their inaugural season.
The Outlawz are looking at a budget of $30,000 to field a team this season and are about halfway to reaching the fundraising goal. Further sponsorship packages are detailed at the team’s new website at okotoksladyoutlawz.ca.
Those interested in playing, coaching and sponsorship opportunities with the Lady Outlawz can contact head coach Barry Hunter at firstname.lastname@example.org and at 403-973-0042 or team manager Roberta Gordica at email@example.com or 403-969-8966.