YU flag football team creates opportunities for women in sports

(Courtesy of Sydnie Linardatos)

In light of the Women and Girls Leadership and Sport Conference coming up on April 26, we will be highlighting the tremendous effort of the women’s football team here at York. They suffered a recent loss on March 9, but have another game day tournament on March 23. Here’s an inside look at the women in leadership roles on our women’s flag football team. 

“The teams on Saturday were tough, but bringing our girls out to compete in some high-level football was fun!” shares Keren Liwanag, a fifth-year continuing studies student and co-president of the team. “OWIFA is now a highly competitive league, and it’s great to see that it continues to grow with York being a part of it.”

Like Liwanag, who has been named MVP for many years, Zahra Lila is the team’s other co-president. Together, they are two skilled athletes who share their experience with the team at every practice.  

Lila, who is  a third-year kinesiology and health science student, reflects on the game on March 9: “Each game we played, players demonstrated their speed, agility and talent, inspiring audiences and paving the way for further growth and recognition of women in sports.”

The Ontario Women’s Intercollegiate Football Association (OWIFA) believes that flag football is for everyone. They strive to create an inclusive and diverse league for the betterment of students’ physical and mental well-being. As OWIFA puts it, everyone should be able to “experience the thrill of football.”

Flag football puts women in a leadership role where they can freely express their strength and agility in a team environment. The two styles of football played are the “5 versus 5” (no contact) flag in the fall/spring and the “11 versus 11” (contact) flag in the winter season.

Sports are an integral part of building strong mental and physical fortitude. They can teach a new generation of women that they can thrive in sports, just like our team here at York.

Fourth-year nursing student and co-vice president of the team, Alexis Pain, comments:

“I have seen so much growth and development over the last two years. The strength and resilience of every single person on our team is incredible. This can be seen both on and off the field regardless of the unpredictable weather conditions. Our team sticks together and supports each other, whether rain or shine.”

Pain also shares the importance of teamwork while reflecting on the March 9th game. “Even though our game on Saturday did not go as planned, it was evident that the team developed amazing chemistry throughout the tournament. I believe that our program will continue to grow and become a place where girls can play the sport they love and create lots of fun memories with new friends!” 

Paula Godoy Sossa, a third-year international studies student, is a talented and versatile player, who plays both offensive and defensive positions. She is also the health and safety officer for the team. “We significantly improved after having increased support from our coaching staff,” says Sossa. 

The coach of the team, Shak Najak, is not only a leader but a source of inspiration. He believes in the strength of his athletes and sees potential in every single one of them. His contributions to the team have been remarkable and his support has been unwavering. 

“York women’s flag football has grown exponentially over the past seven years,” says Najak. “The team has provided opportunities for women in football and fostered an environment of inclusivity and diversity. I am proud to be a part of the Women’s Flag Football program as the sport grows and women make strides in sports. As an advocate for women in sports, OWIFA has created a league for women by women, and we hope that the success of the league continues to provide opportunities at the next level!”

Defensive Coordinator, Khaleed Najak, motivates the women’s football team at every practice.

“Women’s flag football has evolved exponentially since I started coaching. With the [5v5] game becoming an Olympic sport and the [11v11] game gaining traction, opportunities are everywhere for young athletes who want to grab them.”

Women are slowly making their mark on and off the field in leadership positions in sports. With the help of OWIFA, Women’s football is making its mark slowly throughout the province, making creating new opportunities for women in sports.

Come see the team play on March 23 at Wilfrid Laurier University and attend the Women and Girls Leadership and Sport Conference on April 26. For more details and tickets, click here. The team is always looking for new players. If you want to join the team, you can DM @yuwomensfootball on Instagram for details.

About the Author

By Olivia Borges

Sports Editor



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