Building a team: Island Demons represent PEI in Maritime League

As the Prince Edward Island Demons prepare to be the fifth team in the history of the Maritime Women’s Football League, the feeling of teamwork has extended to all facets. Assembling a roster is only part of a much grander project, involving the establishment of both, an administrative structure and a network of supporters, all unified in raising awareness and promoting the franchise.

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Although such construction can be a laborious task, the investment of emotional equity can involve the sense of a personal mission. Co-founder Meagan Ferguson approaches it with an admirable maturity, demonstrating dedication through example. Undoubtedly, any success brings with it rewarding results, simultaneously representing the configuration of a compelling culture that shall set an exciting tone for game, community and province alike.

“I feel one of our main challenges, all be it a necessary one, is building from the ground up. Everything from sponsorships to fundraising to equipment to travel expenses to teaching the fundamentals of the game and safe contact- all challenges, but not barriers. PEI being a close-nit province of less than 160,000 people, we feel that the up-hill climb of starting a new organization is more of a motivator than a challenge.

We have been fortunate to have great managers, committee members and coaches behind the scenes using their resources and contacts to get the word out. Because of this, we see new and returning faces every week, as well as receive messages from individuals in the community looking to support the day-to-day operations.”

Possessing a competitive background that includes the Manitoba Bisons of USPORTS, semi-pro ball with the Steel City Patriots, Richard Lush brings a highly versatile background to his role as head coach. His dedication to sport in the province is a natural extension of his commendable role with the Aboriginal Sports Circle (his Mi’kmaq name is Kitpu Amalkewinu, which translates into Eagle Dancer), proudly supporting grassroots participation in sport for the province’s Aboriginals.

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Complemented by a strong knowledge of the game and a dedication to the provincial sporting picture, this was also evidenced by his role as general manager (and player) for the MFL’s Island Mariners last season. Gaining a spot on the league’s All-Star Team as a Linebacker, along with the team’s Unsung Hero Award, Lush’s enthusiasm is crucial towards augmenting interest in the nascent franchise.

In assembling the inaugural roster, the quest to recruit a group of players encompassed various strategies. Discussing the various strategies involved concerning recruitment, Lush emphasizes how the gathering of prospective athletes emerged from a diverse tapestry of sporting expertise. Akin to the other clubs of the MWFL, the Island Demons already possess a group of wondrous women hailing from all walks of life.

As Lush and his staff are helping to shape the team’s identity and supply motivation in preparation for their first-ever game, the importance of forming a team spirit is built on the bonds of camaraderie and mutual respect. Stressing such values forms the foundation that Lush believes will set a positive example in creating a long-term vision for the Island Demons.

PEI Island Demons logo by Domhnall Consulting

“At first we wanted to engage the public and see what kind of athletes would be interested in being involved. We had a great social media campaign, which created opportunities for the ladies to give our team a shot, and it paid off exactly how we wanted it too. We have an array of athletes on the team from rugby, soccer (and) hockey, (along with) dancers, trades workers, mothers. All sorts of athletic capabilities that makes this team so exciting!

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Our Coaching staff preaches the Family concept with regards to our team, as we want our ladies and all associated to become role models and great community members that will not only show the strengths and leadership of our program, but also show that Women can do ANYTHING they put their minds too.

Young, old and all in between we want the culture in our program to be strong and give hope and guidance to all females living in PEI and across the country! Lead by example is something we attach our program too, and we believe in each other to be those positive influences our province needs!”

That theme of positive influence is one that Ferguson also subscribes to. Discussing the number of women that have already pledged to don the paraphernalia of the Island Demons, this gathering of aspiring female footballers can rely on strong leadership in all aspects of the franchise. Praising the perseverance of the coaching staff, recognizing that this diverse group of athletes range in various levels of athletic proficiency, Ferguson is proud of the opportunity to provide unprecedented opportunities to play.

“Currently we have roughly 30 women committed- some with strong elite athletic backgrounds (hockey, soccer, rugby, basketball, powerlifting, etc.), some new to sport entirely. Some are fresh out of high school, some are wives and mothers. We have great coaches that are patient, enthusiastic and motivated to make an impact on and off the field.

This is the first women’s tackle football program to ever be in the province of PEI. Previously, the only option to play female contact ball was to travel off island to the mainland (NB or NS); that option was not known for many islanders- male or female. Personally, I was only made aware the MWFL existed until I lived off island for University, when a hockey teammate of mine invited me out to try football for the first time.”


Meagan Ferguson on CBC PEI (Photo credit: Matt Rainnie)

Among the most redeeming elements for Ferguson, heralding an exciting new era while supplying encouragement en masse to a new generation of aspiring female footballers, is the fact that future competitor from the Island will not have to duplicate her path. Reflecting on her own early experiences in football, her reality was similar to numerous aspiring footballers. Left with no alternative but to play in other provinces, Ferguson found herself in Fredericton, New Brunswick, garbed in the iconic red jersey of the Capital Area Lady Gladiators, one of the MWFL’s legacy franchises.

“Growing up as a multi-sport athlete and always watching my dad play football, I always wanted to play. I was instantly hooked and played in Fredericton that year and years to follow as a running back. Me being only 5”3, never in my dreams would I have ever expected to play contact ball- let alone as a running back! I was fortunate to play in Fredericton alongside a handful of Team Canada Female football players, which taught me not only a lot about the game, but a ton about myself.”

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With such opportunity also comes a feeling of optimistic confidence. Discussing the anticipation towards opening kickoff, Lush is approaching the season to come with the expectation that a buoyant group of players shall provide sanguine results on the scoreboard. Employing bravura, Lush looks forward to the unfolding season with a key goal that he helps set the tone for what the Island Demons hope to achieve,

“Personally, I am looking forward to shocking the league, the hard work and dedication our coaching staff and players have shown this program since its birth has been nothing short of amazing.

Everyone involved in this program is here to make sure the league knows who the Island Demons are once game day hits! Because we are a “new” team, we know we need to earn our respect but our ladies are up for the challenge and we look forward to finally stepping onto the field in the near future!”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Follow the Island Demons on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IslandDemons/

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