This all-girls tackle football team is the first in Toronto history

A new football team at Western Technical-Commercial School in Toronto is making history as the first all-girls tackle football team in the city. The team is part of a movement in Ontario to make tackle football a real option for women and girls in the province.

On Thursday, Western Tech’s team joined three other teams from across the province for a series of scrimmages as part of provincial organization Football Ontario’s launch of a the Ontario Women’s Football League (OWFL), the first tackle football league for women in the province.

Before the launch of an Ontario U18 women’s tackle football team last year, Emily Todd, director of development and administration with Football Ontario, said girls who wanted to play tackle football in Ontario had no choice but to join the existing boys’ teams at their schools or men’s leagues.

“The first U18 team was a roster of 20 girls from across the province, and they competed at a national tournament in Regina against other provinces,” Todd said. “From there, we saw a need to have girls-only tackle football — a lot of the athletes on that team had only ever played with boys on co-ed teams. It’s great for girls getting into the sport; they’re able to play with other girls, establish new friendships and connections and grow together.”

Right now, Western Tech is the only Toronto District School Board school with a girls tackle football team, but hopefully as more students become interested, enough schools will start their own teams to make it an official high school sport for girls.

Now, the OWFL is launching with an inaugural jamboree on Saturday at York University, where 10 teams will be participating — three U16 and seven U19. The season begins next weekend and runs until playoffs in June.


For Marny Sharpen, co-chair of the OWFL and and chair of the Ontario Summer Football League (OSFL), this new league is a dream come true. “For someone who, when I was in high school and tried to sign up for football, was told that I couldn’t and girls aren’t allowed to play, that’s something that really stuck with me for a long time. Two of my sons played football, I was always on the sidelines — president of one of the clubs, a team manager, always involved,” she said. “So to see where I was back in the ’80s, to now be a part of this, I couldn’t be more proud.”

Sharpen hopes that the league this year is successful enough that it brings about the launch of girls football teams to more regions across the province. At the OSFL, Sharpen said there were quite a few girls playing co-ed tackle football. “That’s kind of what’s got us going with this, and Football Ontario has made huge strides when it comes to tackle football for girls,” she said.

The league plans on expanding into lower age groups as more interest is generated. “This means an awful lot for me,” Sharpen said. “I want this to be successful for girls who felt like I did way back then. Football is an amazing sport — there’s a spot on the team for every kind of person.”

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