“It hasn’t been an ideal year.”
Quarterback and President of the Queen’s Women’s Football team Emily Coulas, ConEd ’21, articulated what most university athletes would likely say after a year of unpredictability and lost seasons.
But Coulas also had a big smile on her face as she spoke to The Journal. Her enthusiasm for women’s football at Queen’s perseveres despite adversities faced by the newly ratified club this past year—many of which were out of their control.
According to Coulas, COVID-19 was thegreatest of these obstacles. Not only did the pandemic cost the team their season, as it did to all university sports, but it also hindered their ability to engage new members and cement their place in the Queen’s community.
“Not being able to physically be at sidewalk sales or be at those big Queen’s events, where clubs are able to promote, has been big,” Coulas told The Journal as she reflected on the team’s progress.
The upside to a quiet year on the field was having more time to focus on the logistical end of the team. Fostering good relationships within Athletics and Recreation was one important step the team took.
“We’re a new club, so we still have lots of questions. Thankfully, we have those good relationships to be able to just ask when needed,” Coulas explained.
In an interview with The Journal, Head Coach Kwame Osei described the team’s establishment within Queen’s Athletics as an ongoing process. The cancellation of last year’s season and Spring Training Camp were big setbacks to building their foundation.
“Even though we’re not able to play games and we weren’t able to have our Spring Camp, we still want to find a way to get better and to help these players physically improve so that when we’re able to actually have practices and get together they’ll be ready to move forward,” he said.
One of the first steps Osei took this summer was assembling a well-rounded coaching staff. This included reaching out to men’s team coaches Cam Davidson and Reed Anderson, as well as interviewing members of the Queen’s men’s football team who “could not only coach, but teach the game of football to the players.”
On the heels of the cancelled spring training camp, the team is back in full swing with a virtual off-season summer training program. Accessible to any athlete who wants to join the team in its upcoming season, volunteer coaches from the Queen’s men’s football program post bodyweight exercise videos tailored to women in football. Participating athletes are then able to view, perform, and receive feedback on their execution of these exercises through the online platform ENK Academy.
“It’s a small thing. But we’re hoping that the coaches are gaining valuable experience for training women in football,” Coulas explained. “It gives our athletes a chance to see these exercises that will help them improve their performance in the sport of football and add them to whatever routine they normally would have.”
Moving into next season, Coulas said the team’s biggest change since ratification will be greater structure. This comes from hiring Osei and gaining better access to Queen’s facilities.
“[Kwame Osei] will be able to create an overall plan of how the team will work, including both offense and defense,” Coulas said. “He’ll be able to further promote that professional environment which is involved in legitimizing the sport.”
The legitimization of women’s football is a key cornerstone for this team, among other things. For Osei, player development is also at the top of his mind.
“[My] first goal is definitely to ensure that every player that joins the team is a better version of themselves at the end of the season, whether that means on the field production or just in their daily lives […] I’m more than just about the Xs and Os. I’m all about building a person up in every aspect of themselves,” he said.
Coulas explained that creating a safe and positive opportunity for women in sport has always been an important team value—being an official Queen’s club only makes this value easier to uphold. For example, Coulas hopes it will be easier to schedule practice times when it’s still light out, so athletes can walk home at a safe hour.
Despite the year of obstacles, Osei anticipates that when they’re ready to go Women’s Football will indeed have a full team—a team he believes will thrive in an encouraging environment and strive hard to achieve another goal at the top of his mind: winning.
“You play the game to win. So, we want to approach every practice and every game that way and hope that we achieve that goal.”
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