In this way, a young woman who had never seen a soccer game in her life became a pioneer in this sport
Athletes who bet on sports are usually a no-go, but we’ll let it slide on this one as they lead to a truly remarkable and unique story on the soccer field from a very unlikely source.
In 2019, North Vancouver-born Kristie Elliott was a freshman on the Simon Fraser University athletics team. She wasn’t a soccer player. She had never kicked a football before. She had never seen an entire soccer game in her life.
So how did she get to the point where she played in a real game against the NCAA Div. III Team Linfield University, the first female player in college Canadian football history to both play and score points in a game?
It all started with a bet.
“I bet a football player that I could score a 40-yard field goal,” Elliott told North Shore News. “I only did it because I wanted to talk to the footballers. It just came out of nowhere. “
She had never kicked a football before, but she knew she had a decent leg. Elliott played soccer in North Vancouver for 12 years and was nicknamed “Thumper” for her strong kicks.
“I played center-back, I took all the kicks and all the corners,” she said. “I just got really good at it and had a strong leg.”
So one day after track training, she walked onto an SFU soccer field in Vans skateboarding shoes, set up a 40-yard field goal, and absolutely bored it.
“I was pretty excited,” she said, adding that her first reaction was to make sure the kick was captured on video so she could send it to her soccer friend and cash it on her bet.
“There was $ 40 at stake,” she said.
This soccer player lost $ 40, but in the end a process began that helped his team get a new kicker. He told Elliott to try for the team.
“I thought, ‘ha ha, that’s funny.’ I have no idea about football, ‘”Elliott recalls.
But the seeds were sown, and the video eventually found its way onto SFU head coach Thomas Ford’s desk. It wasn’t long before he and Elliott were sitting across from each other in his office, discussing the possibility that she could try it out. Elliott was skeptically intrigued.
“I thought I might as well try,” she said. “If it goes wrong, at least I can say that I tried.”
Before training camp, she spent time with family friend Richard White, a former SFU player and high school coach on the North Shore who gave her basic foosball training. In August 2019, she came to the SFU training camp and apart from a small cloakroom disorder – she put her shoulder pads upside down during the first training session – things went well. Better than okay actually – when she started hitting kicks it was clear there could be more to it than a one-off experiment fueled by a stupid bet.
“It went really well,” said Elliott. “It was like, OK, that’s cool. I should just try it out. So I decided to stick with it for the season and see if I liked it. “
She was on the team in the 2019 season but didn’t dress for a single game, a setup that suited her well as she got used to life on a football team, she said. However, she was addicted and left the SFU track and field team in December 2019 to focus solely on football. The 2020 season was wiped out by COVID, of course, but Elliott stuck with the program and earned a spot as the team’s foosball table for the 2021 season.
Although some have questioned her presence on the team as a gimmick or publicity stunt, Elliott understands it isn’t, she said, and in fact, she has seen nothing but encouragement from the members of the program.
“I’ve never had more support than these men and coaches in my life,” she said. “It is great.”
With that support, Elliott finally had a chance to get dressed for a real game – her very first football game – against Linfield in McMinnville, Ore last week.
When she was on the sideline at the start of the game, her nerves began to seize, and they climaxed when she was called for her first kick – a 40-yard field goal attempt.
“I was hoping to have a nice PAT. to get [point after touchdown] to start with, just to get me started, but no, we went on a 40-yarder, “she said. “I felt like I was under a lot of pressure just because it was my first game, it was my first kick. And I felt like I had to prove to myself that I can, and I want to do this. So it was pretty frightening. “
And the first kick was … a miss.
“I’m pretty sure my eyes were closed,” she said with a laugh. “I don’t even remember what happened.”
After the kick, Elliott hit himself up a little on the sidelines.
“I was very upset with myself, but I was like, ‘Okay, I know how it feels, I can’t let this get to me. I need a memory to repeat, I’ll go back in and I know I can. ‘”
The next kick was a PAT. She did it.
“I was freaking out,” she said. “It was finally a great, great relief. And then I started crying on the sidelines because I was so happy. I finally did it. As if all of this hard work has paid off. It just felt good to actually get on board and score. “
Coach Jimmy Dugan in the film A league of its own famously said, “There’s no crying in baseball,” but that rule certainly doesn’t apply to the football field, at least when Elliott is playing.
“I don’t care,” she said and laughed again. “I cry a lot when I play soccer. It does not matter.”
This made Elliott the first woman to ever meet for a Canadian college or university soccer team. SFU lost the game 56-20, but Elliott was on the board, ending the day with two converts. Some might still see it as a gimmick, said Elliott, but that’s none of their business.
“I really don’t care,” she said. “Yes, I made history last weekend, but for me I just do something that I enjoy doing, I want to help my team, be an asset and get a few points for us. That’s why I play soccer out here – because I love it. For nothing more than that, and I hope people see that I’m still there every day to work my ass off. I want to be the best. “
What started as a bet has grown into a passion for Elliott, and she is excited to say that she has heard from other young athletes watching their careers at SFU.
“My cell phone exploded after the game,” she said. “I’m not used to advertising, but I try to go out and do interviews to show other younger female athletes that your options in life are endless. I encourage everyone to go out and try different things. Looking back three years ago, I would never have thought that I would play soccer in a million years. “
She plays football at a high level, even if she does not yet know exactly how to put on her shoulder pads.
“You can’t tell what’s in front and what’s behind!” She said with a laugh, adding that she would encourage all female athletes to try soccer or whatever piques their interest, even if it seems out of reach. “Two years ago I cried during my first training session because I was so nervous, and now I’m living my best life out here, playing soccer. It’s cool to see what can happen. “
Simon Fraser will play his first home game of the season – and the very first game ever at the new $ 20 million SFU Stadium at Terry Fox Field on Burnaby Mountain – on Saturday, September 18, when they visit Central Washington University in a. house GNAC game. Kick-off is 6 p.m.