Gridiron explodes in puff of powder

Queen’s women’s football team takes on the best for charity at Laurier

Conditions were perfect for the Powder Puff tournament at Laurier.
Conditions were perfect for the Powder Puff tournament at Laurier.
Photo courtesy of April Chang

When you think football, do you think of big, sweaty he-men, chest butting and towel whipping each other in a steamy locker room? If the answer is yes, think again.

On Feb 2., 25 Queen’s women and their three coaches braved the cold and headed to Wilfrid Laurier University for a weekend of tackles and touchdowns in the snow.

“It’s not for the faint of heart,” cautioned third-year player April Chang.

Dubbed the “Powder Puff” tournament, the weekend of women’s football features several post-secondary institutions and is held annually by different schools to raise money for charity. This year’s tourney was hosted by the Laurier Letterman’s Club.

This year nearly 600 players hailing from Laurier, McMaster, Waterloo, Algoma University College, and Queen’s braved the rain and snow to pass around the pigskin.

The women from Kingston went undefeated in round-robin play, earning a spot in the playoffs. Though they were eliminated in the quarterfinals, Chang said everyone was very pleased with the results.

The women are coached by a mix of physical education students and varsity athletes. Offensive coach Mike Patone, PhysEd ’07 and a varsity football player, has been coaching the women for last two years and said he has no plans to stop now. He told the Journal he really enjoys coaching, having been a part of youth football teams in the past.

Also coaching are defensive specialist and varsity football player Adam Ross, PhysEd ’06, and varsity soccer player Julia Wilkes, PhysEd ’06.

The game is played as a combination of flag and contact football. The offensive and defensive lines play with contact while the runners wear flags.

And despite the tournament’s name, the games are anything but gentle.

“I think any girl who’s played will tell you it gets pretty vicious,” Patone said.

Black eyes and bloody noses aside, he said enjoyment is always the main objective.

“I think the big thing for the coaches and myself is to promote the fun,” he said.

Chang said she was drawn to the event in her first year because it gave her the opportunity to continue playing a favourite sport.

“I’d always played football in high school,” she said.

She said a lot of people come out from other sports to try something new and have some fun.

The group is made up all kinds of students, from rugby and soccer players, to track athletes and even some who have never played football before.

“We have a good time playing with each other,” Chang said.

Patone said that the group started small, fueled primarily by word of mouth, but has been rapidly expanding.

“It’s actually been growing every year,” he said.

This year 45 players showed up for practice in September. The players practiced once per week for two hours throughout the fall and winter in preparation for the chilly competition.

The coaches typically take around 25 players to the yearly tournament but Patone said that the numbers tend to regulate themselves. He has never had to tell anyone that they couldn’t come.

When the time came, the players and coaches packed “like sardines” into a bus for a road trip.

And even though they are all happy to play and have a good time, Chang said the women display no lack of competitive spirit.

“We enjoy winning,” she said.

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.