Sport Quarterly: Women’s 18U Football League Kicks Off This Fall

Women’s football advocate James Dickens will see his vision become a reality in the coming weeks.

The launch of Football Nova Scotia’s 18U six-a-side women’s tackle league this fall will address a glaring gap in development Dickens has seen the last few years.

His perspective comes from coaching the Halifax Xplosion of the Maritime Women’s Football League and his nine years of experience coaching minor football on the South Shore with the Seahawks.

“It’s been co-ed through Grade 9 with us,” Dickens says. “We’ve always had a solid group of girls in our program. That’s where we find the age gap and the size drastically changes between girls and boys. We have 13 or 14 young ladies in our program here on the South Shore right now, and after Grade 9, unless they want to play with the boys, there is no play.

“There has to be something for them to go to.”

The 18U tackle league was to start in 2019, but the pandemic put those plans on hold. 

Dickens is actively going to schools to recruit girls to play now that restrictions have eased.

The goal for this season is to field four teams, with the hope of eventually expanding to several parts of the province. Games will take place concurrently with the provincial fall minor football season.

Mini-camps will be held throughout the summer to gauge interest and allow girls to learn about the sport. It enables girls in Grade 12 to compete rather than lose out on a season.

Overall, the new women’s league represents the core values of the sport, says Football Nova Scotia’s program coordinator.

“Diversity and inclusion are always big things, not just for Football Nova Scotia, but for football in general,” Ryan Cornish says. “There are all different types of people playing the game, and football is great because there are no set socio-economic barriers. No matter who you are, race, colour, creed, whatever you are, whoever you are, however you identify, you can play football.”

Dickens has a vested interest in seeing girls, including his daughter MacKenzie, who is entering Grade 11 this fall, have a chance to play the sport and continue in the future.

“With it being an all-girls program, it opens up their ability to transfer this into an active lifestyle throughout life,” he says. “This gives them a place to carry on doing that thing they love at a high level of performance and the provincial program. There’s a great opportunity to showcase a full all-girls event at a provincial level with some real recognition attached to that level of football.” 

Please visit Football Nova Scotia’s website or contact your local minor football association for more information on the league.

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