“This is not a delicate sport”: Meet the members of Toronto’s first tackle football team for girls
We caught up with the players at their very first game, where they told us what they love about getting tackled, why coaches shouldn’t go easy on them and why the GTA needs a girls’ league
Move over, Yellowjackets—Toronto officially has its very first full-contact girls’ football team. On Thursday, the 31 players who make up Western Technical-Commercial School’s brand new high school team, the Colts, played their debut game at Football Ontario’s Female Jamboree. We caught up with these bona fide jocks to ask whether they’re pumped about making history—and getting to tackle people.
Ruby Strong, 15, running back
This is the first full-contact high school girls’ football team in the history of Toronto sports. Why do you think that is?
Girls are taught to not be aggressive or angry. We’re told to be delicate—but football is not a delicate sport. I guess people just never thought we’d want to play it, or never thought we could. But we’re doing it right now, so that shows them.
Related: Meet the father daughter duo who attend Leafs games in the opposing team’s jersey
Any new skills you’re especially proud of?
Well, now I’m able to tackle someone. I mean, if that’s ever needed in life, I’ve got it down. But, really, I’ve learned teamwork. If your line doesn’t do their job, then your quarterback or running backs get sacked. You have to rely on one another.
What’s your favourite thing about football?
It’s a sport where each position is very, very different. That makes it more inclusive. For example, if you hate running, you could still be on the defensive line.
Shayani Rajalingam, 16, wide receiver
What made you decide to start playing football?
I’ve always played other school sports, and I take dance outside of school. But it was the fact that we got this opportunity, for women to finally get a tackle football team, that made me want to play. So I decided to try it out.
Was there a learning curve?
Getting tackled is pretty intimidating. But I think that’s the beauty of the sport. You don’t really get over it, you just persevere. It’s always going to be scary, but the adrenalin rush of being on the field helps you get over it.
Do you think we’ll start to see more football programs for girls in Toronto?
I really hope so. The fact that we’re up here right now is monumental. Look at me—I’m five foot five, and I don’t weigh much, but I’m still here.
Indika Anderson, 15, lineman
Did you always want to play tackle football?
I’ve been playing other sports for a long time—it helped me cope with being bullied throughout middle school. It was nice to have something else to focus on. But, before this team was created, I’d never even thought about football. This felt like my once-in-a-lifetime chance to try it.
How’s it been going?
At first, I thought the coaches weren’t going hard enough on us. They weren’t pushing us as much as I knew they pushed the boys’ teams. But, as we got closer to our first game, that changed. There’s more pressure now, and I prefer it that way.
What is getting tackled like?
It’s frustrating. But, when I get back up, it shows me that I have all this strength in me.
Subrina Da Silva, 16, offensive line
What’s it like being on the new team?
I’m very proud. Tons of girls are interested in football, and some of us are really good at it. I’ve always wanted to play, but I never had a team. Now I do.
Will you join again next year?
If the team is still here, I’m joining it, no doubt.
Would you like to see a girls’ football league set up in the GTA?
Definitely. Then we wouldn’t have to wait so long to find teams to play against. I’m praying that there will be more chances for girls to get out on the field.
Lauren Nichol, 16, defensive end
How did your friends and family feel about you joining the team?
It was a big surprise. I’ve never shown any enthusiasm for sports. I’m not someone who enjoys gym class, and I try to sit out whenever possible. So they were shocked, and some of them thought it was a joke. But it just seemed interesting. And being on the first girls’ football team—I didn’t want to miss that opportunity.
You have an injury. That’s very sporty of you.
I got hurt during practice: I landed the wrong way and tore my ACL. Initially, it was discouraging, and I wasn’t sure if I would keep playing next year. But I’m starting to feel better, so if I’m fully recovered, I want to give it another try.
Are you still having a good time today?
It’s very exciting. I’m feeling super hyped, and I’m happy to support all my friends.
Cairo Gregory, 16, centre
What’s your favourite part of being on this team?
Today’s game was a highlight. But even the more mundane parts are cool—just before we came here, we were all listening to music together and dancing in the locker room. Becoming friends with people I might never talk to otherwise has been an important part for me.
Does getting tackled hurt?
I’m physically tough, and I have a pretty high tolerance for pain. I know my body well, but I’ve learned to have more patience. I know when I need to stop.
Any advice for someone who might see football as intimidating?
New things are always scary, especially where you have to be aggressive. Don’t expect to be amazing, because you won’t be—you’re just learning. We’re brand new, and we’re going up against teams that have existed for years. It helps to just do your best and focus on having fun.
Isabella Mastropoulous, 18, defensive line
Were you a football fan before joining the team?
I’ve played all kinds of sports: hockey, soccer, volleyball, basketball. Football was my favourite, but I couldn’t play until last year, when I convinced the school to let me join the boys’ team. The boys were a lot bigger than me, so it was good practice.
Did you have trouble convincing other girls to join?
Not at all—a lot of girls were interested, way more than even made the team. At the beginning, it was a bit difficult because everyone had to learn the rules. I knew all the drills from being on the boys’ team, so I was able to help with that.
Do you have any tips for girls who are thinking about joining?
Be willing to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Once you get on the field, it feels really good.
Hanalora Batura, 15, wide receiver
How do you like being on the first high school girls’ football team in the city?
It’s great. I can’t wait to tell my kids when I’m older. It’s like bragging rights.
Do you feel like your playing has improved since you started?
I’m getting really good at understanding what everyone else on the team is doing. I’m way faster now, and I’ve gotten better at catching. I just feel stronger. I definitely want to keep doing this for as long as it lasts.
These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.