Quinn Petrinchuk has loved football since she was 17.
After working her way through minor league football with the Regina Victorias, she made the Regina Riot two years ago. Now, she has earned the opportunity of a lifetime.
In May, Petrinchuk, along with seven other Riot players, made the final roster to represent Canada at the IFAF Women’s World Championship in Finland at the end of July. She says this is the pinnacle of her career so far.
Read more: Regina Riot well represented on Team Canada
“This is the highest level of football I could ever play and it’s huge. It only comes around every four years, so it’s a big deal to make it this year,” said Petrinchuk, who plays defensive end.
But getting to the tournament isn’t as easy as it seems. Each player in the tournament is required to pay $4,000 for travel, accommodations and food. This amount doesn’t include spending money either.
The tournament is scheduled to start on July 28, with the final payment due on July 15. With just under two months since making the team and with just under two weeks to the deadline, this has left several of the Riot players planning to go to Finland with just a short amount of time to gather the funds.
Petrinchuk is one of the players maximizing her efforts to have the funds in time. She says fundraising, on top of working full-time, has been incredibly challenging.
“Currently, I’ve literally put my life on hold so I can save money and raise money to go to this tournament as well as train on my own time. This is on top of my full-time job, Monday to Friday…. I fear that I might just have to use my whole paycheck to get me there and if so, so be it.”
The team has been banding together and fundraising as a group as well. A GoFundMe page has been set up, but it currently sits at just over $2,000 out of an $18,000 goal.
They’ve also gotten creative, hosting steak nights, silent auctions, raffles and even beef jerky sales.
But the team has ways to go. Riot linebacker Rae-Lynn Schaffer, who also made the Canadian national team, says players have secured half of the funds needed and with just under two weeks to go, there’s a sense of worry within the group.
“I think the financial burden after the tournament is over will get people,” Schaffer said.
“Some of us have families and kids, we have to pay bills while we’re there and we’re taking three weeks off. Some of us had to take out a line of credit to be able to afford to go down there…. Some people just got told last week that they’re able to come so they have to come up with that money within a couple weeks.”
The high expenses for the team started much earlier than just for this upcoming tournament. In order to attend the national team tryouts in Ottawa in May, players had to spend up to $1,500 at their own expense just for the chance to be one of the few selected.
“Part of me said that, ‘If I don’t make the team, I don’t think spending this much money is worth it,'” Petrinchuk said. “But since I made it, it definitely was worth it.”
Both Petrinchuk and Schaffer say these obstacles point to a bigger issue: underfunding in women’s sports.
Riot head coach Kris Hadesbeck has coached men’s football. He says the issue is very apparent.
“With the girls’ football, it’s a common theme where we’re trying to get fundraising and trying to find ways to limit our costs for players, where that’s not really something that’s discussed too often with the guys,” Hadesbeck said.
Petrinchuk and Schaffer agree that the disparity is unfair.
“It’s unfair that women have to pay on their own dime to participate in sports, especially at the highest level,” Petrinchuk said. “It’s very frustrating, to watch my male counterparts who are the same age as me get to play football for free and I have to pay with all my own money.”
“It’s extremely difficult, we don’t get the same opportunities, but it’s still what we all love doing,” Schaffer said. “It would be nice to get more fundraising for women in sports and be up there with the men.”
While the costs may be high, Petrinchuk says she wouldn’t think even about skipping this opportunity.
“I love football so much and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to play for Team Canada and represent my country,” Petrinchuk said.
“This tournament is like the Olympics for women in football, it’s the highest we can go,” Schaffer said. “It’s my passion, it’s what I love doing, so I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s so worth it.”
No matter what, these women are set on their goal of going to Finland. As they push to represent their country on the highest stage, they hope women’s visibility in football will only increase and eventually help solve the issues they’re up against.
“I’m ecstatic to be able to travel to Finland and be able to show the younger girls like on the Victorias that they can do this too,” Petrinchuk said.
The Riot are also trying to help support their players in their fundraising. Hadesbeck says the team is donating $250 to each player to help out with their costs.
“They’re just going to do whatever they need to to make this happen,” Hadesbeck said.
“They’ve sacrificed a lot of time, effort and energy, not only to get to the point to make the tournament … but also they sacrificed a lot to make the money to travel.
“I’m incredibly proud of them. Some of them have been working on this for years and to see them achieve their dream, it makes you proud.”