Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Valkyries in the news

Valkyries have record number of players as interest in women's football grows
By Don Rice, The StarPhoenix, May 2, 2016

The only option for women who wanted to play tackle football as recently as six years ago in Saskatoon was to play on a men’s team.

It would be a huge understatement to say there has been a dramatic change since then.

The Saskatoon Valkyries, the first local women’s tackle football team, made their debut on May 22, 2011. Today, they are drawing record numbers of players, and interest in the women’s full-contact sport has never been higher in Saskatoon.

The 56-player roster the Valkyries currently field is nine more than their previous record roster of 47. The team downed the Edmonton Steel 30-17 in their only exhibition game of the season at SMF Field on Saturday.

“We had to order new jerseys, because we wouldn’t have had enough,” said Valkyries general manager Michelle Duchene about the player boom. “It definitely is a nice problem to have.”

Photo compliments of Liam Richards, The StarPhoenix
The growing rosters over the years is the indirect result of Team Canada women’s football team tryouts in Saskatoon back in 2010. Only three Saskatoon players were invited to those tryouts, with two joining the team. The camp was held in Saskatoon mainly because of the central location for teams from Alberta and Manitoba.

From those original two Team Canada players, the desire for a tackle football team was identified in Saskatoon. The Saskatoon Valkyries began play less than a year later with an original 34 player roster.

Saskatoon won the first four WWCFL championships, helping to raise the profile of women’s tackle football.

The development of other women’s football leagues in town has also spurred the development of tackle football in Saskatoon. A couple years ago, Duchene, along with former Valkyrie Darla Lee-Walde were disappointed that although there were flag football leagues for girls before Grade 8, there weren’t for high school girls. With the cooperation of Saskatoon high schools, Saskatoon Minor Football and Football Saskatchewan, they formed the Rush Football League for girls.

They were hoping to field six teams in their inaugural 2014 season. Sixteen teams signed up. Last season, the league was up to 19 teams. This year, 29 teams are playing as the league kicked off its third season of play last week.

After learning a lot of basic football skills, many Rush League players have moved up to play for the Valkyries over the last couple years. Duchene estimates that about 24 current Valkyrie players, along with a number of their alumni, help out in coaching and facilitating the Rush Football League.

Saskatoon women’s tackle football may have started small just a half-dozen years ago, but it looks like there is no stopping it now.

OVERTIME: A couple of quick-learning new Valkyrie recruits in their exhibition game were Alex Eyolfson and Alyssa Wiebe. Eyolfson was 7 for 9 as quarterback for 111 yards with one TD pass. Wiebe hauled in five passes for 80 yards, including two TDs in her first time ever playing football of any kind after a lengthy hockey career.



Check out this photo gallery from our exhibition game against Edmonton.

Valkyries in the news

From battleground to gridiron: Valkyries linebacker breaks down doors
By Kevin Mitchell, The StarPhoenix, March 4, 2016

Saskatoon’s Phelycia Black is a 5-foot-1 football linebacker who relishes the act of hitting.

She’s even more adept at dodging — like that time in Afghanistan, when she was driving a Mercedes-Benz armoured truck on a gravel road outside Kandahar Airfield, and for a few seconds her world blew up.

“We did a lot of stuff (with the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan). And … we got ambushed,” Black — now a Saskatoon Valkyries football player — said Friday from the New Orleans Saints training facility, where she’s attending the Women’s World Football Games.

Black — described as “a tiny little thing, but fearless” by Valkyries football coach Jeff Yausie — spent four months as a soldier in Afghanistan during the toasting-hot summer of 2008. The Regina native was on her first mission outside the wire, when a suicide bomber set off a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device several metres from the front of her truck. American helicopter pilots flying above her convoy alerted the Canadians to the bomber’s presence, giving them — as an Edmonton Journal story put it at the time — “a split second to veer away as the bomber blew himself up.”

Three civilians were injured by shrapnel. The Canadians were unharmed.

“I don’t know if (the experience) ever leaves you,” Black said. “But the Canadian Forces prepare troops so well prior to going over that we don’t let anything like that falter us. We don’t stumble. We get back on it, and we drive through. It’s just like the game of football, right? We march on.”

Black enjoys doing things you wouldn’t expect — like serving in the military at 5-foot-1, including a brief infantry stint in Afghanistan, doing sweeps, seeking IEDs, after wrapping up her stint as a driver. And there’s this whole tackle football thing: First with the Regina Riot of the Western Women’s Canadian Football League, then last year with the Valkyries.

Football, we assume, seems so much easier after you’ve tangled with a suicide bomber and kept your head on a swivel in a far-away country.

“You don’t see it coming, right?” she said. “On the football field, you can see the play, you can see what’s going on. Out there (in Afghanistan), it’s like you’re fighting a snake — you’re not fighting a bear, like you are on the football field.”

Black wasn’t a football fan growing up and didn’t see herself ever playing the game, but the steady growth of women’s tackle football in western Canada prompted her to give it a try.

Now, when she talks football, she can’t restrain her enthusiasm.

“All my life, I’ve been told I wouldn’t ever be athletic or competitive, or have the opportunities we’re getting down here (in New Orleans),” Black said. “The more people say you can’t do that, the more we want to break down the doors and say we’re here, and we’re not quitting.

“We coach young women (with the Valkyries), and give back. We want to create an environment where these young girls are the future of our game, and we want to see them on the field, maybe across from us, maybe playing right next to us on Team Canada. We just want to build, build, build.”

Five Valkyries players are at the Games in New Orleans. The event, which began Tuesday and wraps up Sunday, includes four days of drills and technique training at the Saints training facility, plus competitive games.

Approximately 220 women from 17 different countries are there.

Black, who wrapped up a 13-year career in the Forces this past November, speaks like a true soldier when she summarizes why she loves the game as much as she does.

“I like hitting hard, or getting hit hard,” she said. “I like stopping the play, and being able to put the offence back on the field. That is my favourite thing. You sacrifice the body so the offence can score.”



Saturday, 23 January 2016

Valkyries 2016

Do you want to be a part of the 2016 Saskatoon Valkyries? That's great. Our practices for the 2016 season begin in February. You can find all of our indoor session times on the second poster below. If you would like more information, please contact saskatoonvalkyries@gmail.com. We hope to see you out!

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Valkyries Merchandise Sale

Stop by the Valkyries Christmas Sale on Sunday, December 13th to pick up that special gift for the Valkyries fan in your life!

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Valkyries Executive

Introducing the new Valkyries Executive!

President: Jeff Yausie
Treasurer: Carisa Polischuk
Secretary: Elena Kube
Sponsorship: Shannon Harnett-Smith
Fundraising: Eden Rakochy
Communications: Joelle Scriven
Promotions: Tammy Robert
Member at Large: Danielle Haughian
Member at Large: Darla Lee-Walde

Joining the executive board this year is Valkyries' head coach Jeff Yausie, who takes over for Valkyries' general manager Michelle Duchene at the President position, while Shannon Harnett-Smith assumes the role of Sponsorship coordinator from Candace Bloomquist, and former Valkyrie player Darla Lee-Walde returns to the board as a Member at Large in place of Michelle Petrisor.

The Valkyries would like to thank Michelle D., Candace Bloomquist, and Michelle P. for all of their hard work and dedication to the team (both on the field and off) over the years. We would also like to congratulate Jeff, Shannon, and Darla on their new appointments on the board.