Sudbury's St. Benedict girls football team makes northern Ontario history

St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School in Sudbury is making a bit of northern history: they are home to the first all-girls high school tackle football team in the city and one of only three in Ontario.

“There’s always a lot of talking down to girls, especially in the sports field, that girls aren’t strong enough as guys,” said Amelia Bois, a linebacker who's in Grade 11.

“I think that a bunch of girls coming out here to play a guy's sports just shows how strong we are and that we can do anything that guys can do.”

It’s the first all-girls high school tackle football team in the city and one of only three in Ontario.

Coach Kim Labrosse said a lot of girls are interested in football. In this case, they made it clear to him they wanted equal treatment.

“Basically the girls came to me and said, ‘Sir, if we’re going to do this we want to be treated just like you treat your boys,’” Labross said.

That includes learning how to tackle – and how to be tackled.

“At first it was a little scary, but you know, you do it right back to them," said Bois. "It’s great. It's fun."

There are currently 45 girls on the roster and they said it’s all about playing like a girl and being empowered.

“You get that sense of courage of being able to go out there and just be yourself and just do it and it’s so exciting and the adrenaline you get ... it’s really nice,” said Keira Gies, a left tackle who is in Grade 9.

“As a team, we are very strong. The communication between, like, when we are practising on the scrimmage, we’re just always communicating ... I love how comfortable I am with all of the girls.”

Officials said it’s a way to diversify sports within the school board and, in this case, pave the way for sports to grow not just in the north, but across Ontario.

“I wanted to play tackle football just to prove that it’s not only a guys-dominated sport and that girls can do it and come out at just as strong as guys,” said Bois.

“It’s a great way to get out your anger and just work as a team.”

After a month and a half of training, Labrosse, said coaching them is a rejuvenating experience.

“You get a fresh aspect,” he said.

“You get to go back to your grassroots coaching. You're simplifying things more and just the fact that the girls are always laughing, they’re giggling, they’re smiling.”

Labrosse said not only are they a strong team with a good work ethic, they pick things up quickly.

“You tell them to do something, and they get it, like it doesn’t take much,” he said.

“Compared to the boys, sometimes where they’ve played the game before or whatever, so they’re kind of reluctant to doing some things. But with the girls you tell them to do something and you can actually see the progression happen on a daily basis.”

The only other two female high school football teams are St. Mark's and St. Joe's in Ottawa, but Labrosse said it looks like something is starting at St. Mary’s in Sault Ste. Marie.

But first, the St. Bens team is heading to Ottawa on Thursday to play its first game.

“I am very nervous, but I am very excited just for the experience and being out there and hopefully winning,” said Gies.

“I’m super pumped," added Bois.

"I think that our team has a lot to bring out to the field and we’re super strong, we motivate each other and I think that’s what a good team is. We got it. We can bring it out for sure.”

The team's first home game is May 18.