Second season holds promise for sensational Steel Head Coach Stefanyk

Having made history during the 2015 Western Women’s Canadian Football League season as the league’s first-ever female head coach, Kessie Stefanyk was transformed into a gridiron icon and trailblazer. Embodying the spirit of opportunity and empowering that contributes to the growing momentum in female football, Stefanyk is a luminous and illustrious individual adding an exciting dimension to the game. Having earned a Novice Coach of the Year Award with Football Alberta, a WWCFL Coach of the Year Award would only add to a growing legacy.

During Stefanyk’s first season, she guided the Steel to a respectable .500 record, keeping them continuously in the playoff picture. While she works towards building on the momentum from that first season, there were many positive lessons learned. Having also served as the starting quarterback of the Steel during her competitive years with the club, she definitely knows how to motivate and bring the best out of others.

In reflecting on her historic first season as head coach, one where she became the first female head coach to earn a regular season win (in a 7-6 final against the Calgary Rage), Stefanyk looked at the bigger picture where the theme was one of upward progression. Despite missing the postseason, there was a feeling that the team continued to pull together and work for each other, dedicated to a unified goal of team success.

“The whole season was really a highlight for me in itself. Obviously getting our first win at home was a huge moment for me and a real confidence booster. The season did not finish the way we wanted it to, but the progress we made throughout the year was phenomenal.

My players continue to impress me each and everyday with their ability to learn new information so quickly and the way they challenge themselves to be the best version of themselves they can. Their work ethic is first class and I have no doubt that we have the ability to be a championship team.”

As Stefanyk and the Steel engage in training camp, ready for the season ahead, there is no question that there is a feeling of increased confidence. Adding to such momentum is also the fact that a former head coach for the Steel, one with over 30 years experience in the game, is back in a coordinator position, not only showing his proud support, but testament to the overall feeling of dedication in the organization.

“Going into this season, I definitely have more confidence as a head coach. After playing for and coaching this team for the past 7 years, I have a pretty good idea what to expect from my team in regards to experience, numbers, learning ability, as well as how hard I can push them mentally, emotionally and physically.

We have an amazing group of new players this year who are exceptional athletes and who are learning the game of football very quickly. Our veterans have not lost a step since last season and continue to be excellent mentors and push each other to be their absolute best.

We also have a few players and a coach who are returning to the Steel after a year off. They give us more experience and knowledge, and will definitely make us a stronger team. Having coach Jamie Fisher back as Defensive Coordinator has been a huge asset not only for the players, but for the coaching staff as well.”

During Stefanyk’s final season as the Steel quarterback, she helped lead the club to the WWCFL championship game against the Saskatoon Valkyries, adding to her growing legend. The chance to bring the Steel back to the championship game would make her the first woman in league history to appear in such a game as both a player and coach in a career.

Although the objective is to assemble a team with character people, who can develop into great talents with coaching, winning is a key factor in building confidence. Stefanyk knows that a playoff berth would be a huge step forward for the Steel. In discussing what it will take to qualify for the playoffs, Stefanyk acknowledges that a willingness to learn shall be a key factor,

“Well, the simplest answer would be to win football games. To do that we need to continue being students of the game. We must be dedicated to learning as well as dedicated to our teammates. Knowing that if we continue to push each other, we can all be successful.

We cannot simply accept failure throughout the season; we must grow from our mistakes so we can overcome them as a team. My players and coaching staff are some of the hardest working people I have ever met and I believe that the time and effort they put in daily will pay off for us come playoffs.”

As empowering as Stefanyk’s presence on the WWCFL’s sidelines might be, she is very proud to know that she is joined by another colleague in the female head coaching sorority. Across Canada, the Maritime Women’s Football League shall feature their first female head coach. Lisa Harlow, a former Team Canada alum and first player inducted into the Saint John Storm Ring of Honor shall take the head coaching reins this season. For Stefanyk, the presence of a fellow female coaching colleague only adds to the excitement of the growth of the game, promising a bright future ahead defined by opportunity and equality,

“Absolutely I am! I think any person works their tail off to get the chance to coach any team, so it is awesome to see more female coaches getting involved.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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