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New football program a touchdown for Edmonton girls

An Edmonton woman has created the city’s first female midget tackle football division, in an effort to make the sport more inclusive.

Tanya Henderson said she created the new division because most young female football players don’t have an opportunity to play at a higher level.

“Long-term we would like to see just girl’s teams, so they could play separate when the size difference [between boys] grows,” said Henderson. “Then, girls can play without being worried about going up against boys that are bigger and stronger. I think that’s really important.”

LISTEN BELOW: New football program touchdown for Edmonton girls

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Although girls have always been allowed to play in minor football associations within the city, Henderson said the numbers start to taper off just before the midget level.

“A lot of girls will continue playing around junior high, but stop in high school. The boys just get a lot bigger,” said Henderson. “The size differential becomes an issue and parents don’t want their girls playing with the boys.”

Edmonton’s first female midget tackle football division training camp on March 2, 2019

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That’s why she believed it was important to create an all-girls division, with the help of the Capital District Minor Football Association.

“A lot of people tell me, you want the girls to play with the boys, but that’s not really what I want. I want girls to have a league of their own to play in and be at a similar level that the men have as well,” said Henderson.

“Male sports have a lot more support and focus on them. They’ve become a lot more developed. As a female athlete there isn’t that support.”

The first mini-camp was held at the beginning of March. She explained how it felt to see the group of 17 on the field at training camp.

“Every girl that came out was very focused. You could see the drive and happiness on their faces. It’s a big deal. It opens a lot of doors for girls who have been told, ‘You can’t play football, it’s a boy’s sport.’”

Henderson, a personal trainer, fell in love with football as an adult, but she’s hoping others can pick up the sport sooner, and stick with it.

“I really wanted to be able to give that opportunity to girls from a younger age. I’m looking to expand and grow their opportunity within football that doesn’t currently exist,” Henderson said.

For her, part of the appeal of the sport is the teamwork aspect.

“Football is intense. Everyone needs to work together. You can’t have a superstar. It’s a very humbling sport,” Henderson said.

“It’s so inclusive, which is why I think it’s important to get it out and available to young girls. To have a sport where anyone can walk in and have a space and not have a boxed-in version of what that athlete needs to look like, I think that’s really valuable. Girls who may not find a place to fit in, will find that place in football.”

Registration closes on March 17. Games start in April. You can register here.

Watch below: Some of Canada’s top football prospects were in Edmonton Monday for the CFL Combine. This is one the last chances for players to turn heads before the CFL Draft. 

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