Powderpuff creates sense of community
Don’t ever challenge a Powderpuff girl to a fight — and no we’re not talking about the late 1990s children’s show.
Powderpuff has to do with football, athleticism and braving -30 degree weather.
The sport is an annual charity flag-football tournament consisting of nine all-female Wilfrid Laurier University student teams, which are coached by some of the campus’ varsity athletes. Laurier Letterman has been organizing Powderpuff since 1997, and the sport has grown significantly since then.
From Feb. 6 to 8, Laurier invited 18 teams from across Ontario to play for the title. This year, York University claimed the title.
“We actually had to cap it this year because it was getting too full,” said Brent Vandenberg, the president of Letterman. “It’s been great getting to know people from other teams.”
Powderpuff has developed a cult following over the past decade, with many teams sending in multiple rosters to the tournament. This year, teams from as far at Ottawa came to play football in the snow.
However, one of the tournament’s favourable teams, Queen’s University, wasn’t invited back this year.
And no one knows why.
“We didn’t get a direct answer,” Vandenberg said. “Their athletic director contacted us and told us that they would be unable to attend and we didn’t get too much into that.”
With many schools sending in “all-star” rosters to the tournament, which consists of their best students and student-athletes, Letterman is considering creating a travelling team of their own.
“That’s something we’ve talked about how to make Laurier more competitive,” Vandenberg said. “To be honest I think it’s the coaches who are more competitive sometimes.”
Vandenberg wasn’t kidding. Powderpuff teams are coached by the same athletes who represent Laurier in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) conference.
Vandenberg himself is on the varsity hockey team. When he first witnessed Powderpuff, he was very impressed when he saw the calibre of the female football players.
“After watching a couple of games I was very surprised of the talent and the competitiveness of the girls on the field,” he said. “They did a great job and to play in the elements that they played in was very impressive.”
Vandenberg also gave credit to all the organizers for their collaborations with the tournament.
“From the whole tournament perspective to the after party I think everything ran smoothly,” he said.
The entire tournament’s proceeds go toward the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. This year, Letterman predicts that after expenses, they were able to raise $10,000. Last year, the two tournaments combined raised $7,000.
“I think the biggest thing is that all the proceeds go to a great cause,” Vandenberg added.
However, Powderpuff is thought to be more significant to the coaches and players, with many participants making it the highlight of their winter semester.
Annie Hutter has been playing Powderpuff for two years and agrees that its community is thriving.
“All of the girls and coaches are enthusiastic about the competition,” she said. “I am constantly laughing during practice and games and always having a great time.”
“Needless to say, deciding to play Powderpuff was on of the best decisions I have made in my university career.”
As someone who had no prior connection to Powderpuff before his presidency, Vandenberg was shocked at how strong the community was.
“Just how big it is, how many people are involved and how good the girls are,” he said about what he was most impressed about.
“They treat it like it’s a varsity sport.”