Get to know the Concordia women’s flag football family

The flag football team celebrates three consecutive wins in Sherbrooke. Credit: Athena Marsilio @thedarkroom39

The team is demonstrating impressive progress in only their third season.

It all started with the love for flag football and a lack of opportunities.

In 2021, students in Quebec joined forces with their institutions’ sports directors to create a flag football league. The universities involved include Concordia University, Université de Montréal, Université du Quebec à Montréal (UQAM), Université du Quebec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR), Université Laval, Universite de Sherbrooke, and Université du Quebec à Outaouais (UQO).

Eventually, the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) created a flag football pilot project which has been running for three years, now being extended for a fourth.

Sara Parker, Elyane Corneau-Dulude and Stéphanie Nazarov were the students who pushed for Concordia University to be involved in the possible flag football league. Corneau-Dulude and Nazarov are no longer with the team, but Parker is currently in her third year and serves as the offence captain for the Concordia Flag Football team and the quarterback of Canada’s national women’s flag football team. She will compete in Finland from August 25 to 30 at the 2024 IFAF Flag Football World Championship.

Besides Parker, the team is led by head coach and defensive coordinator Alexis Labonté, offensive coordinator Lovinski Geli, assistant coach Sydney Roche, team captain Amélie Brisebois Bentler and defence captain Leanne Majeau. Roche is an alum player in her first year of coaching, while it is the third year for Labonté and Geli.

The Concordia Flag Football team has been working hard to prove themselves, which shows in their results. The team finished first in the league this 2023-24 season with 11 wins and one loss. They made it to their first-ever finals after defeating the Laval Rouge et Or 38-14 in the semi-finals, but they lost to the Université de Montréal Carabins 38-13.

One common aspect the team shares is the sense of family they feel together. “Having each other’s back and bringing each other up when we’re down has kind of been the motto of our team,” said second-year player Victoria Di Loreto. “We’ve had some ups and downs, but when we have ups, I feel that the entire team feels it together.”

Loreto enjoys flag football because it requires using both feet and hands. She started playing soccer as a goalkeeper but never felt the “family feeling” on her team until flag football. 

Second-year player Frédérique Paul shares similar sentiments. “My favourite part about the sport is the friendships you make when you play. It’s a family, really,” she said. “I know we are always here for each other.”

Paul fell in love with the sport when she was 12 years old. She wanted to play tackle football but decided to try “flag” since women couldn’t play football at her high school. Paul even chose Concordia for its flag football program.

Team Captain and third-year player Amélie Brisebois Bentler started playing because her dad was a fan of college football. They would play catch together in their front yard, but she never knew if she could play on an official team until she learnt about her high school’s flag football team. 

Bentler played rugby in her first year at Concordia, with the intention of ultimately playing flag football as soon as the program started. She had many memorable moments with the team.

“I love the victories that we’ve gotten as a team, but I love being involved in the team management as well,” said Bentler. “We’re a small organization and we’re just starting, so we have to get our funding and put our name out there. We’re working really hard on our social media and financial state right now. I think it’s been very memorable to build the program from scratch.”

Although the Concordia Flag Football team is a small organization, they are making a name for themselves through their success and victories. The team even recently won a tournament in Laval.

Université Laval held their first edition of the Provincial Flag Football Tournament on Feb. 10. Concordia defeated team Subzero in the final to bring home their first banner of the season.

The flag football team celebrates their Provincial Flag Football Tournament win on Feb. 10
Credit: Laury-Anne Potvin

“The team Subzero consists of girls from Montreal who are representing Canada in the next world championship in Finland, so it felt great to win against them in the finals,” said Loreto. She mentioned the win was even more rewarding as they had previously lost against team Subzero before meeting again in the finals.

Coming off the tournament win in Laval, the team will play in the third edition of the ConU Tournament on April 7 at the Stinger Dome.

Even though the Concordia Women’s Flag Football team has yet to become varsity, they remain one of Concordia’s most successful teams.

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