Girls join boys on P.E.I. football field as 'one big family'

·2 min read
Girls join boys on P.E.I. football field as 'one big family'
Charlottetown Privateers football players, from left to right, Frankie MacLellan, 15, Penny Olscamp and Cordelia Harcourt, both 13, say they are treated no differently than the boys on the team. (Shane Ross/CBC - image credit)
Charlottetown Privateers football players, from left to right, Frankie MacLellan, 15, Penny Olscamp and Cordelia Harcourt, both 13, say they are treated no differently than the boys on the team. (Shane Ross/CBC - image credit)

Penny Olscamp would often play football with her grandfather before he passed away.

Frankie MacLellan has played catch with her two brothers for as long as she can remember.

And Cordelia Harcourt, well, she just likes to tackle people.

"It makes me feel really strong," Harcourt said.

Whatever their reasons for deciding to play tackle football in a league dominated by boys, the three girls — all between the ages of 13 and 15 — have become a welcome and valuable part of the Charlottetown Privateers bantam team.

They say boys in the league don't treat them any differently — they go home with plenty of bruises after a game. And they dish it out as well as they take it.

"It just seems more fun because I can get my aggression out better with them," said Olscamp, who plays receiver, cornerback and linebacker.

"I haven't heard any negative comments from the other teams so I think it's going well."

The three are the only girls on the Privateers bantam team. There are eight girls playing tackle football among the eight teams in the bantam and varsity divisions, for youth 16 to 18 years old. Those who stick with it can go on to play for the Island Demons in the Maritime Women's Football League.

David Henderson, general manager of Privateers Football Club, would like to see more girls getting into the sport earlier.

Shane Ross/CBC
Shane Ross/CBC

He said girls, especially at the bantam age, have been a "fantastic addition" to the Privateers program.

"Girls in the age group from 13 to 15 are typically more aggressive than the guys. They seem to get that aggression a little earlier. So they're typically a little faster, a little stronger and they tend to dominate the boys early on. The guys do catch up after 15."

Stephanie Batchilder-Lanigan
Stephanie Batchilder-Lanigan

Recently, the Privateers began supplying shoulder pads made specifically for girls to make them feel more comfortable on the field.

The girls said they appreciate the gesture.

"It shows that they support having girls on their team and it shows that they want more girls to play," Harcourt said.

In a sport that has had its share of misogyny and gender-based controversy at its highest level, the NFL, girls and boys continue to play football in harmony on P.E.I. under a strict zero-tolerance policy for any type of discrimination.

Shane Ross/CBC
Shane Ross/CBC

The girls say they have never heard any disparaging comments directed at them, and the boys on the team say they wouldn't stand for it.

"I like to think that it's just one big family," said Darcy Waye, a 13-year-old defensive end.

"We treat each other the same, with respect."

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