LETHBRIDGE – In just five seasons the Lethbridge Steel have turned from an expansion team to a Western Women’s Canadian Football League power thanks in large part to an excellent coaching staff. 30-year coaching veteran Jamie Fisher leads the staff, but his 24-year-old protégée Kessie Stefanyk deserves her share of the credit as well.
“She’s a very, very smart coach,” says Fisher. “She has embraced her role each year taking on more responsibility.”
Stefanyk, now in her third season as a coach with the Steel, is the team’s top assistant and offensive coordinator. She always had a love of football.
“I actually wanted to play in high school but my dad said no because it’s with a bunch of guys,” she deadpans.
She was the Steel’s first ever quarterback, playing two seasons with the team before being forced to retire due to concussion issues. But Fisher immediately offered her a job on the team’s sideline.
“I want to be involved with the game so it was a perfect way to do it and it’s a blessing in disguise, that’s for sure,” she says.
And she’s very good at it, earning Football Alberta’s novice coach of the year award, the first female to ever earn a coaching award from the organization. The honour makes her a trailblazer, even if she’s reluctant to buy into the title.
“Personally I never thought of it that way,” says Stefanyk. “It was just, ‘I’m a coach just like the rest of these guys and doing my job and having a good time doing it’. But it’s cool and I hope I’m not the last woman to do it.”
The Steel finished second in the WWCFL Western Conference during the regular season and are gearing up for playoffs.
Stefanyk admittedly misses the on-field action, but has found a new passion in coaching.
“When I see the girls actually do something we’ve been working on, I’m like, ‘oh yeah, we were working on that, I taught them that,’” she says. “That feeling, I love it. It couldn’t get better than that.”