Please tell us a bit about yourself.
My Name is Shanya, and I am 17 years old. I go to R.H King Academy. I play flag football (12s & 7s), I’m the quarterback for my school and rep team. I play in a Women’s touch football league (Toronto Generals). Since there’s no high school girl league, I also spend some time training with the Scarborough Thunder Football team.
I played multiple sports volleyball, track and field, basketball, softball, badminton, soccer, ultimate frisbee, and flag football. Outside of all of this, I’ve been dancing Russian ballet for 14 years at Toronto Dance Industry. I’m the eldest of 3 younger siblings, and I love traveling and trying different foods.
During COVID, I’ve been volunteering my time at my church which we turned into a Foodbank (Grace Place Food Bank) to help communities in need of food. The experience of volunteering at the food bank is something I wouldn’t change for the world, and I love hearing people’s stories on how they’re dealing with the pandemic and how grateful they are to our service. I also help out with delivering food to the seniors or people with disabilities, and I can genuinely say I created a great bond with these people even though I see them once a week. I’m also a part of a business called Preformenhace, which helps people in Fascial stretch therapy & sports wellness. In which I manage the Instagram page, I am currently working on building the website.
Flag Football is a sport that is being on the rise as many high schools and universities/colleges add it to their program. The NFL partnered up with NAIA schools down in the states to have Women’s flag football as a varsity sport, and I had the opportunity to receive a scholarship offer to play for a school in Nebraska and gain interest from several schools in Kansas, Tennessee and Florida. I want to show young girls here in Ontario and even in Canada who want to play flag football that their voices are being heard and that girls can play football too, and that football isn’t a “guys sports” anymore. When I graduate next year, I hope to be the first from Ontario to receive a Women’s flag football scholarship and to lead many other young girls who wish to play the sport at a higher varsity level.
What habits did you develop in sport help you become successful in your academics/career?
Some habits I developed through sports that helped me in my academic/career is if I’m going to do a workout, assignment, or even an everyday task, I will complete it giving 110% than giving it a 50% effort. Knowing that I gave it my all and even a little bit more on a workout, assignment, or even an everyday task would make me feel good and complete about myself, rather than me giving it a 50% than having to redo or not feel complete about the activity I’m doing.
Another habit I developed is always to have a smile on my face. I’m known throughout my school, volunteer and sports to be that girl who’s always smiling. No matter what the situation is, I try to keep that happy smile on my face, it constantly improves my mood and the people around me moods, and it’s just a genuinely good feeling to know that a simple smile can improve someone’s day.
Being on time or arriving before an event, game, or practice shows your coach or other individuals you’re punctual and mean business. Showing up 20 to 30 minutes early gives you time to prepare yourself for training, job interview or test.
What advice do you have for parents, coaches or sport administrators to improve inclusion in sport?
Many young girls worldwide would love to play flag or touch football if they are giving the opportunity and chance to play it. I never knew there’s rep teams or leagues in New York, Nevada, Florida, Panama, and Egypt with young girls playing flag football. Here in Ontario, there’s not one…yet. The NFL taking notice of girls playing flag football is step one to make it available to every young girl. In due time the CFL would be a part of that and promote young girls to play flag football in Canada. There are a few QB coaches out there that teach girls and women QB mechanics and techniques. My favourite from Montreal, Quebec, The QBMovement (@theqbmovement on IG), run by Myles Gibbon, has virtual and in-person sessions specifically for girls to get the same training as guys. It’s 20201, you would think that girls are still giving the same opportunities as guys, but you have young girls fighting and advocating to play a simple sport that has been there for guys since the ‘20s. It’s time for girls and women to get the same opportunities, equipment, chance, and praise as guys and men.
What sparked your passion for sport? How can it be shared with others?
My passion for football (touch and flag) first started in grade 9. I was on the varsity basketball team and, through my coach, who happened to be the head coach for both teams, brought up an opportunity to join the varsity flag football team. One day I was wearing my flag football jacket with my position on it, “Running Back,” and someone approached me and said I know a girl who plays football and gives me her contact info. This was the start of the football world that I didn’t know existed, I knew there were no rep leagues for high school girls, but I didn’t realize there’s a women’s league out there. My high school season consisted of 12 games, and out of the 12, I had scored seven touchdowns, scored the first and last touchdowns for my school. We ended up being city champions for the third year in a row. It felt good to be a part of a team of 24 other girls who had the same passion and dedication as me.
I knew that flag football was the sport that I wanted to continue in university, but no schools offered it as a scholarship option for recreational or intramural sports. When the NFL said that they are partnering up with NAIA schools to have flag football as a varsity sport, I cried and took it as a sign from God. Even though school football came to a pause due to covid my other football career didn’t, every Sunday I would be playing touch football with women in their 20s, 30s and 40s. Just last summer (2020), I started training in the Quarterback position. Later on that same year, I had my first tournament with me throwing in October. I was the youngest QB, which felt huge to me because I was only 16. The following month I received my first scholarship offer from Midland University in Nebraska to play women’s flag football. It made me think how much things can change in a year because I would have never thought that I would be getting scholarship offers to play flag football. There’s a total of 15 schools that offer women’s flag football as a varsity sport NAIA level, and it took a lot of research, emails and calls to communicate with the head coach and to join virtual tours of the schools.
5 words that best describe me are: