It is not a sport many women play.
Humboldt native Carla Leonew has been playing football with the Saskatoon Valkyries, a women’s football team this past season.
Over the weekend, Leonew, 23, and her team played the Western Women’s Canadian Football League Championship at Griffith Stadium in Saskatoon against Lethbridge.
“We actually won — we brought home the championship,” said Leonew.
The team won the game 64-21.
“We really blew them out of the water,” said Leonew.
Leonew has always been athletic. She played four years of rugby at Humboldt Collegiate Institute as a high school student.
After not playing for two years, Leonew wanted to get back into the rugby or a similiar sport.
“I never tried football so I thought, ‘Why not?’” explained Leonew.
This was her first year with the Valkyries and she had a great time playing with them.
“I had never played football before and went in knowing absolutely nothing about the game or the positions,” said Leonew. “ I remember the night they sent me home with a playbook and I just stared at it because all I could see was Xs and Os and a few squiggly lines, and I thought, ‘Do they honestly expect me to learn this?’”
Even though at first she didn’t know what she was doing, she was a quick study and has fit right in.
“We are doing quite well, that’s what everyone has been telling us,” said Leonew.
Although many of the players are naturally athletic — Leonew explained many of them are university all-stars in different sports — they have an intense practice schedule.
“Most of us started training back in January,” said Leonew. “We have been going for a good six months already and we only played six games.”
Leonew said they practise twice a week and sometimes don’t come out of practice until midnight.
“It is a lot of hard work, for sure,” said Leonew. “You spend half your time out there preparing for a game and then the season is over before you even realize it.”
She doesn’t just love playing the game, she also likes the friendships she has made with her teammates.
The team has bonded together through their time together.
“Everyone is really passionate about it,” said Leonew. “If you have a group of girls that is really passionate about something and are winning and doing well, it just makes you want to keep going.”
She said it is inspiring to play with such amazing women athletes.
“I’ve never played at the stature of these women,” said Leonew. “Even playing with them, no one can tell the difference between us. They make you better.”
Leonew enjoyed her time with the team so much, she plans on playing again next year.
“Because this year was my rookie year, I felt there was lots of learning for me, but now, after playing in such a big game, I know that going in next year, it should be easier and I should get better at what I already know,” said Leonew. “I will be going back for sure.”
Next year will be a great season, she said.
“I feel like the team has come a long way and am confident that with the same attitude and passion from the girls that we will be just as good next year,” said Leonew.
She also encourages other girls to get involved in women’s football.
“I would really, really encourage any girls that want to come out of high school or to one of our camps, don’t be afraid,” said Leonew. “I knew absolutely nothing about football and here we are at the championship game this weekend... You don’t need to be an expert in football to play.”
Since football is not a traditional women’s sport, she is excited to see more interest in people.
“The fans were great,” said Leonew. “It was nice to see people are supporting women’s football.”
Carla is the daughter of Darcy and Shirley Leonew of Humboldt.