PowderPuff more than just a tournament

(Photo by Cristina Rucchetta)
(Photo by Cristina Rucchetta)

Picking up where it last left off, Laurier Lettermen’s annual PowderPuff invitational tournament continued last weekend after being postponed due to a snowstorm on Feb. 8.

And according to Lettermen president, Andrew Barbati, and executive coordinator, Drew Galpin, this year’s PowderPuff season was certainly worth the extra work.

“It might only be two weekends of a year, but it’s an entire year process in terms of getting teams organized for it,” Galpin said.

The weekend-long tournament occurred March 8 and 9 and hosted 26 teams stemming from all over Ontario.

This year, “Body Shotz” from Queen’s University captured the PowderPuff title with a 9-6 win over “Y U Mad?”  from York University. The game was determined by a final-play field goal, which earned Queen’s the extra three points.

However, the real story goes far beyond the actual game of flag football.

The entire tournament is said to be more significant to players, teams, coaches and organizers.

“It’s kind of funny because as soon as our [varsity football] season is over, the first thing on our mind is PowderPuff,” said Galpin, who played his fifth and final season on Laurier’s football team this past fall.

“So the vets will try and recruit the rookies that they think might be good in that position.”
Galpin explained the process of recruiting rookie varsity athletes as volunteer coaches. He said that many find themselves involved with PowderPuff because they are asked to keep the tradition of their teams alive.

“For one thing, it’s handed down,” Barbati added. “One team’s head coach is there because he helped out when he was younger and learned everything from the previous head coach.”

“The younger guys come and see how we run it and each year they do more until they’re eventually in our positions,” Galpin continued.

PowderPuff first came to Laurier’s campus in 1997 and since then it has expanded across Ontario universities.

Laurier hosts the largest PowderPuff tournament available to Ontario schools.

According to Barbati, Lettermen had to turn down some teams who were interested in sending multiple rosters.

Because of this, many Ontario schools are beginning to create all-star teams to play in the tournament.

“Queen’s does a really cool thing where the seniors of the [varsity] football team have one team and the rookies have another,” Barbati explained.

“They have all the girls who want to play PowderPuff try out and the seniors get first pick and the rookies get whoever is left over.”

Galpin added that the University of Ottawa could only send one team and therefore held extensive tryouts.

“Something like 200 girls showed up and did this try out and they drafted like 50 players,” he said.

In the future, Galpin would like to see Laurier have its own all-star team. Ideally, the first tournament held early in the new year, and is made up almost completely of Laurier students, would act as a tryout to the coaches.

“We’re so saturated,” Galpin explained. “We have 12 teams in a tournament out of 26 so the talent gets spread out.”

Although Barbati does like the idea of a more competitive Laurier team, he does not think that an all-star roster would ever work on campus.

He enjoys being able to have a large Laurier-only tournament.

“Also I don’t think the girls would go for that; girls are very loyal to their teams,” he added.

That being said, Barbati and Galpin both agreed that the female participants truly make the tournament what it is. The spirit generated is what Galpin refers to as “a second Homecoming.”

“We have guys coming out to volunteer to ref who have been out of school for five years,” he said.

“It’s a sweet mix of players,” Barbati continued. “You have guys who won the Vanier cup [back in 2005] who are coming back and working with first-year WLU football players.”

PowderPuff alumni are also continuing to play football at their next educational endeavour. Lettermen explained that one Laurier player went on to teacher’s college at Nipissing University and actually created a team just for the occasion.

“That’s how much it means to them,” Galpin said.

But for now, the three-month long PowderPuff season has finally come to an end.

As for Barbati and Galpin, who will not be returning to their positions on Lettermen, they have complete faith in the next set of hands.

“We always say to the younger guys [on Lettermen], if you’re going to do one thing, keep PowderPuff alive.”

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