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Saskatoon Valkyries helping empower women in sport

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WATCH: The Saskatoon Valkyries impact extends well beyond the field and their six championships in nine Western Women's Canadian Football League seasons – Oct 7, 2020

Things almost look normal on a blustery September afternoon at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. There are whistles blowing, coaches yelling, and footballs flying through the air.

However, for the Saskatoon Valkyries, the fall is normally their offseason, not when they hold their rookie camp, looking to recruit the next crop of female football talent.

Read more: ‘I needed this so much today’: Saskatoon Valkyries return to field for only time in 2020

Now, winning teams often have a certain allure, an added bonus when it comes to attracting talent. However, for this team, it’s not just their past achievements that draw in newcomers.

“I really enjoy it, it’s really fun,” rookie Grace McCorriston said. “I feel that this group of girls is really awesome.”

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“The veterans on our team, they’re so welcoming,” head coach Pat Barry added. “We’re a really inclusive team, and to include all of the newcomers to our team, that’s just the way that they do things.”

McCorriston grew up playing soccer, but, she’s always wanted to try her skills on the gridiron.

Read more: Emmarae Dale tackles new challenge as Saskatoon Hilltops’ first female player

“I played flag when I was little, and wanted to take the next step,” she said. “But my mom wouldn’t let me because it was tackle and dangerous. But now I’m old enough to make my own decisions, and I thought it’d be fun.”

The first time she pulled on her pads, and buckled the chin strap on her helmet, she knew she’d made the right decision.

“It’s a cool feeling, honestly,” she said as she smiled. “I really enjoy the feeling, it feels powerful, I think.”

One of McCorriston’s greatest assets at an early glance is her blazing footspeed, an attribute that clearly carries over from her time spent on the soccer pitch.

“We were doing one-v-one (drills) and I beat the (defensive back),” she chuckled. “I felt really good about myself. It felt awesome.”

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The main focus of these rookie camps may be to bring in new talent. But their positive impact is felt beyond the rookies with the returning Valkyries as well.

“What the Valkyries, and all women’s football teams, have done is shown girls of all ages, and women too, that you can get on the gridiron and do this stuff,” defensive lineman Jaime Lammerding said. “It’s not just for boys anymore.”

“That’s what tells us it’s working,” fellow lineman Denise Kolosky echoed. “All the flag football, all the S-M-F, it’s just working.”

It’s the excitement and talent, on full display during these camps, that has made a lasting impression on many of the team’s veteran players.

“When I eventually retire — which, who knows when that will be — there’ll be somebody to step in and fill my shoes,” Lammerding said. “That means the Valkyries will just keep going, so that’s a great feeling.”