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October 31, 2019

MLSE's Toronto Argonauts team up with MIFA to build a love of football 

What would you do if someone stopped you in the grocery store and asked you to try football? You may think that being female, having no knowledge of football or not being particularly athletic may exclude you from this kind of conversation. This couldn't be further from the truth. People like Liston Bates, program co-ordinator of the Mississauga Indoor Football Association (MIFA) and Melissa Stolaaz, Director of MIFA ALLSTARS Ontario, along with their players have recruited many girls and women just like you to football.

Football is an inclusive and diverse sport. We heard that whether its flag, flag-contact or tackle, everyone has a place on a team and in this sport. Organizations like MIFA are breaking down barriers to football trial by offering free equipment, professional training and a supportive community of players to help women and girls get comfortable, build skills and a love for the sport. 

"This was a long time project that finally made its way to reality and it was amazing to see how many young athletes it impacted, right here in our home area Toronto. Working with the Argos, MIFA was able to bring the sport to the next level, having athletes train on BMO field and showcasing all facets of football from all over Ontario on the speaker panel that day. What an amazing start to a bigger journey," says Melissa Stolarz.

MIFA ALLSTARS Ontario is the first and only tackle football team that was developed for women in Ontario. The team represents Ontario, Canada both provincially and internationally and is changing the game of football for women at home and abroad. See the impact that MIFA ALLSTARS Ontario is making on the local and greater community

MLSE's Toronto Argonauts are investing in women athletes and sports fans 

A few weeks ago, the Toronto Argonauts teamed up with MIFA to host a full-day Women's Football Showcase for girls and women to participate, be inspired, and create unforgettable memories. The goal of this super fun community event was to build a love of football at the community level and nurture fan loyalty for the Toronto Argonauts.

"Women don't typically come to sporting events alone. They bring family, friends and many more," says John Murphy VP Player Personnel, Toronto Argonauts. "Building a love of football at the grassroots level with one woman, means we are building a community of sports lovers."

Mark Wittman, Account Executive at MLSE was the brainchild behind this initiative which ran a few weeks before the conclusion of the 2019 season. He's building fan engagement for the Toronto Argonauts with game-day grassroots events like the Women's Football Showcase supported by MIFA and the Armwrestling Championships hosted by Arm Fight Club

Women's Football Showcase

75 women football athletes from three GTA high schools took to the BMO Field in a football clinic led by some of Ontario's top female football players and coaches as part of the Toronto Argonauts' Women's Football Showcase day supported by MIFA. Training was followed by an inspiring athlete panel discussion and the day was wrapped up by an Argo's game.

Women's Football Clinic

The clinic was designed by Liston Bates and led by MIFA ALLSTARS Ontario players Lindi Spilchen (running back) and Amanda Flint (team captain, pioneer player and player of every position). It was the perfect day for a football clinic. Under bright blue skies on a beautifully kept BMO field turf, warm-up and drills were led with energy, words of encouragement and insight. The women were all smiles...very sweaty ones!

"It was amazing to see MIFA ALLSTARS Ontario athletes leading the drills. This program has come so far; at the very beginning, Head Coach took his personal time to train and teach the sport and then invested personal resources to fund equipment. It’s an amazing story and journey to follow," says Melissa Stolarz.



“We like how all the girls at our school are into football. It makes us feel empowered. We’re excited to learn more stuff today,” said Sara and Gigi from Banting Memorial High School. 


Women's Football Athlete Panel Highlights


Nina Monticciolo - MIFA Flag Youth Co-ed Football 

"Flag has helped me with leadership, listening and working with other people."

  • Nina is the youngest player on MIFA ALLSTARS ONTARIO women's tackle team at 12 years old. Her brother Marcus helps her with skills on and off the field 
  • 2020 is a big year: "I just played Team United in the International Bowl. I'm excited to have a set season this year with 6 guaranteed games as part of the Women's Football Alliance (WFA). Our team just played Team Mexico and will be playing against Team Italy in July 2020. "
  • What do you love about MIFA: "I love that MIFA is a community-based organization that hosts fun events like the Annual Turkey Bowl and the International Bowl that raise awareness for football."
Rachel Vesz - MIFA ALLSTARS Ontario (QB)

"Football is super diverse and inclusive. Everyone has a place on the team. It's a sport where everyone can fit in, different shapes and sizes. Anyone can do it from high school kids to moms who want to up their fitness level."

  • Why try touch football: Rachel played on a co-ed touch team this winter where she was really pushed to excel. "Touch is a good way to learn football and get intensity."
  • The benefit of playing as a woman on a coed touch football: "Women are often underestimated, so you when you can really make a difference in the play." 
  • Rachel's wish for the future of football: "There should be a hub created for women to get together. A way to connect and learn about certain types of football. "

We were thrilled to introduce SeeWhatSheCanDo to MIFA ALLSTARS and the girls and women who participated in the Women's Football Showcase. We created SeeWhatSheCanDo exactly for this reason. We're a place where women are lifted up, celebrated, and find resources that help each of us embrace who we are and what we can do.

Cassandra Zaika - Uof Waterloo Warriors Football. Contact-Flag (DL/OL)

"We're here to support our fellow women, creating an atmosphere of family and athletes." 

  • Achieving club status: The contact-flag team at the University of Waterloo is part of Ontario University Athletics (OUA). Cassandra's football team was recently recognized as an official athletic club with the University of Waterloo, giving players the benefits of facility space, field time, access to gym spaces, trainers, coaching resources and the ability to sport the University's logo which helps with team spirit and fundraising. 
  • Fun fact: Waterloo Warrior athletes are supported by an entirely female executive.
  • Making a difference in their community: Their Program reaches into communities as their university or college tournaments are almost exclusively charitable.

Julia Van - U of Toronto Flag Football Team Coach

"There are many strong women in a leadership position at the University of Toronto who are committed to developing players."

  • Why flag football is no longer called powderpuff football: "Women's flag football used to go by the handle of powderpuff football. Women's teams are moving away from this term because of its connotation of being fluffy, and not reflective of the competitive nature of the game and the athletes in this sport."  
  • Working together: "Women's and men's programs should support each other. When women and men work together, football will grow and everyone will benefit."

Leslie Swan - MIFA ALLSTARS Canada  

"When you commit to the MIFA's program you get free gear to try out the sport."

  • How MIFA coaches and volunteers helped her participate in this sport: "I played football years ago but was primarily a rugby player, so I didn’t know techniques. Before I started, I met 1:1 with coaches and in small groups. This introduced me to new skills and core things to work on. 
  • How to get more women to play football: "We need to let people know that the sport exists.  Just talk to people and tell them that we play tackle football. We do it well. We have a lot of heart.”

Nilufer Hoque - MIFA ALLSTARS Ontario (WR) 

"Full tackle was a little scary at first but MIFA helped me through it."

  • Nilufer has played for with the MIFA ALLSTARS for under a year. She started playing flag football at University of Toronto.
  • How she started playing football: "I played football in university to get active again. I started with flag football and loved the community and the team. It was positive and encouraging. I wanted to continue that somehow when I graduated." 
  • What MIFA has done to help her get started in tackle football: "After graduation, MIFA was recommended.  I've since played my first international game and am learning the sport while I play. It's really great and very easy to get into the sport.” 
  • Should women play on a men's tackle team if there is no women's league?: "Yes, women should be given the opportunity to play with men.  When we are given the opportunity to grow, we can be a part of a community and we all gain benefits from playing in a supportive environment."

Argoooos! Wrapping up a day of football inspiration with an Argos game

A day of football inspiration was wrapped up with a Toronto Argonauts football game vs. the Ottawa REDBLACKS. MIFA ALLSTARS welcomed the ⁦Toronto Argonauts back onto the field after halftime as they were all cheered on by fans.

10 life tips from football coaches

The life lessons that players learn when playing football are priceless. During our day with this awesome collection of players, coaches and sports leaders here are some of the training tips we heard that extend beyond the field:

We’re doing our part to grow sport and empower women

SeeWhatSheCanDo is working with organizations like MLSE’s Toronto Argonauts and MIFA to cover events like the Women's Football Showcase. We’re helping women access resources to get active and be role models for the next generation of leaders. 

If you share a passion for gender equality, sports and breaking down barriers, consider partnering with us and investing in healthier communities. Let's talk.

Athlete Gallery - Women's Football Showcase 



Find the Mississauga Indoor Football Association (MIFA) and the Toronto Argonauts Football Club in our Athlete Advisor, your online athletic business directory. Find, rate and review football programs, local community offerings and businesses that will help you do your thing.  

Post your football event on our SWSCD Hub.  Start a football group on our SWSCD Hub.

Look for advice, stories, news and more on our Football activity pages.  

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