March 8, 2024

Foord a CFL Women in Football Program Success Story

EDMONTON, AB – “If you can see it, you can be it.”

Edmonton Elks video coordinator Shaylee Foord admits the phrase is a bit cliché, but it rings true on International Women’s Day. Foord will be entering her second full season with the Elks after having been hired out of the CFL’s Women in Football Program, which she took part in during 2023 training camp.

“The first season they ran it, I actually applied and interviewed and didn’t get selected, and I just figured kind of not my time,” Foord said about the Women in Football program. “I was really excited to reapply last year. I had a little bit more coaching experience under my belt, I had worked with our U18 team that went to the girls national tournament, so felt like I had a little bit more to contribute in my interview and it turned out to be the right time and I got selected for the 2023 program.”

The CFL started the Women in Football Program back in 2022 as a means of promoting inclusivity, diversity and equity throughout the league.

Foord is the third person involved in the initiative to be hired by the Elks, joining Elisha Torraville who was hired as the manager of football operations and Erin Craig, who was hired as the Elks head strength and conditioning coach prior to her participation in the program.

Seeing other women working in the operations side of a Canadian Football League team helped prove that there is a path for someone like Foord, who loved and played the game, but may not have thought they had an opportunity to pursue it as a career without the CFL’s program.

“I really can’t overstate how much the program has honestly been so great (for me),” Foord said. “I never grew up feeling explicitly shut out of football. I never felt like it was a closed door to me, but I just never really conceptualized having a job working in professional football because I never ever saw anybody who resembled me doing it. I just kind of never really thought about it too much.”

Where Foord was first able to “see it” was in current B.C. Lions assistant defensive backs coach Tanya Henderson. Henderson was a teammate of Foord on her women’s tackle football team – who she considers mentor and a friend – and was the first full-time female position coach in CFL history.

In her year with the Elks, Foord says she has found the team to be a really supportive environment. She has been encouraged to diversify and develop her skills in a variety of disciplines, beginning as an assistant in football operations and branching out into more coaching through her work in the video department.

Pouring over film on a regular basis and being a part of team meetings has been crucial for her personal development, but it has also helped her become a part of the team.

“Honestly, I think probably other people think about my gender more than I think about my gender. For me, it’s a job. I can do it as well as anyone. I think my gender is the least interesting thing about me or the work,” Foord said. “I’m here because I want to be around the game and I’m here because I know what (being on) a football team is like. I’ve coached them. I play, for one. It’s not really all that different.”

The work that comes with being on a CFL staff can be a grind. There are long hours during the season and with Foord working in both video and in football operations last year, there are times where a person can feel stretched thin. For Foord, it’s the little moments during a season that make the long hours and stress absolutely worth it.

It was a return to her home province of Saskatchewan that really stood out as a reason to love the job.

“I was setting up headsets on the sideline. Mosaic Stadium was starting to fill up and the light was hitting the field in the beautiful way that it does at the end of summer in Saskatchewan. I finished my work and just sat on the sideline taking everything in and feeling so overwhelmed with gratitude and pride that this is what I get to do every weekend,” Foord said. “It’s my favourite stadium in the country. I had just gotten to see my family and best friend that morning, and they were all coming to the game to cheer for the wrong team and see me living out my dreams.

“Sometimes I jump in and throw a ball around during warmup, but that day I just sat and smiled and took it all in. I thought about everything and everyone that brought me there. It’s a view of the game not a lot of people are lucky enough to get to see, and every time I’m feeling stressed or frustrated or overwhelmed, I just take myself back to that moment and fall in love with football all over again.”