ERIN – Andrea Danchuk, a grade eight student from Erin Public School, has been selected for the U16 Ontario West women’s flag football team.
“It was amazing. I was speechless,” Danchuk told the Advertiser.
“I didn’t expect to be on the team. There’s so many amazing players that were there.” Danchuk added making the team is “crazy.”
Tryouts began in February in Ottawa, Hamilton and Toronto.
“[Tryouts are] a long process for [the girls],” said Football Ontario director of development and administration Emily Todd.
“And it’s also challenging for the women and girls’ side, which is kind of my focus with Football Ontario, because we’re still in the development stage of those programs.”
Todd noted the challenge for Football Ontario right now finding girls interested in playing flag football.
“They might not have experience in the sport yet. And we don’t have as many programs yet for women and girls, that’s something we’re working on,” Todd stated.
Danchuk was placed on what is called the “Trillium Team” for provincial tryouts as she was not part of, and did not have access to a community or club team in Erin.
When Danchuk participated in provincials this June, it was the first time all of the girls played together as a team.
However, Danchuk did well enough to make it to a four-hour development camp at York University. There, the girls completed athletic testing and different drills to make the final team.
There were a total of 16 girls at the final development camp, and ten moved forward.
Ontario has two U16 women’s flag football teams, an eastern and western division. Each team has ten athletes and two coaches.
Lu Cruz, head coach for the U16 Ontario West team, said Danchuk was quite welcoming and was a leader from the start.
“[Andrea] is just beyond her years in terms of her football IQ, being a great teammate, having that all in mentality, and then you saw all that resumé itself on the football field when she played at provincials,” said Cruz.
The head coach had nothing but great things to say about the up-and-coming flag football player.
“She was hands down probably the best offensive player we had playing that day,” he explained.
Cruz added Danchuk is a great teammate who makes coaching easy.
“She’s so coachable, she has everything you want in an athlete. She studies the game constantly. But she’s also a student athlete, which I think is super important,” he said.
Danchuk has school as a high priority along with flag football. Cruz says he can see how studious she is, and how she is a great student in the classroom and also a great friend.
“And you see that come on to the football field when she’s playing as well,” he said.
Danchuk’s mother, Jen Danchuk, said currently there is not much opportunity for growth in women’s flag football, so her daughter had previously been playing on a co-ed team.
While scrolling on social media, Jen saw the Guelph Gryphons advertising for a tackle team. This is how she later got in contact with Todd about flag football, which resulted in Danchuk making the Ontario West team.
Cruz says that women’s flag football is still a new program.
“It’s a grassroots program for women in football, and there’s absolutely no funding,” he said.
It is going to cost over $10,000 for the girls to be sent to the national tournament, which runs July 30 to Aug. 2 in Nova Scotia, and each player has to come up with that money on their own.
“You’re looking at about $1,400 per player that we’re trying to find to raise money for the nationals,” Cruz added. He says funding is a big factor in women’s sports, especially in flag football.
To help offset some of these costs, the team has started a GoFundMe campaign. Anyone interested in donating can visit gofund.me/383899a7.