May 30, 2024

Landry: Women In Football Participants bask in busyness of camps

Cori Thorstad is being kept super busy at Calgary Stampeders training camp but that’s not a new thing for the energetic Saskatoon, Sask. native, seeing as how that’s how she spends her life anyway.

For two years now, Thorstad has been the equipment manager for the team she used to play quarterback for, the Saskatoon Valkyries of the Western Women’s Canadian Football League. She also assists, part-time, both the Saskatoon Hilltops of the Canadian Junior Football League and the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, all while keeping a full-time gig with the Jim Pattison Childrens’ Hospital Foundation.

Now, as part of the 2024 cohort for the Women In Football Program presented by KPMG, Thorstad is extending her love of football — and of being busy, I assume — as an equipment assistant with the Stampeders, working and learning under the eye of Calgary’s longtime equipment manager, George Hopkins.

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“It’s busy but it’s awesome,” said Thorstad of her life, taking time out of one of her jam-packed, long training camp days. “I love everything that I do.

“There’s so many little takeaways throughout all of camp so far,” she continued. “And there’s so much passion for the game here. It’s just amazing to be a part of that and to just learn everything that happens at this level of football.”

Now in its third year, The Women In Football Program is designed to help participants gain knowledge and practical experience in professional football, with all nine CFL clubs offering positions at training camp.

Along with Thorstad, there are four other women taking part in this year’s program in the West Division; Marin Tunison is at Saskatchewan Roughriders camp working in administration. Kennedy Malloy (Winnipeg), Rachel Bayer (BC) and Kae Allison (Edmonton) are getting crash courses in football operations with their respective teams.

Make no mistake about it. These are more than just job shadowing opportunities. As both Thorstad and Allison can attest, their bosses are really putting them to work.

“We’re on a bus at 6 a.m. and not getting home until, sometimes, after 10 p.m.,” said Allison, a sport management student at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont. “So, very long days but some days don’t even feel like work. We’re just having the best time out here and there are times where I think, ‘How is this even a job and that I get to do this and get paid for this?’

“It’s just incredible.”

As well as being a student, Allison is vice-president of the Brock women’s flag football team and she is eager to take the knowledge and experience she gains at Elks’ camp back to St. Catharines.

Kae Allison is working in football operations with the Elks in training camp and looking to bring her experience back to Brock University (

“I wanted to see all that goes into a professional team,” she said, describing why she applied for the Women In Football Program. “I am very grateful I get to work with our university women’s team as one of their executives. Basically, everything I do at home I also do here. Just on a much larger scale.”

Under the direction of Edmonton’s manager of football operations, Shahbaz Dhillon, Allison is getting to take in a wide range of experiences when it comes to the football ops of a pro team.

“All of the aspects have been really eye-opening,” she said.

“They have truly welcomed me into the family,” Allison said of the Elks, “and let me take on whichever roles I felt comfortable in, which I appreciate.”

The Women In Football Program has yielded very positive success stories in its brief history, including one to which Thorstad can attest.

She became aware of the program’s existence through one of her now former associates with the Huskies, Jay Starecki, who’d attended BC Lions’ training camp as part of the 2023 cohort. Starecki is now a full-time assistant equipment manager with the Lions, having started in the position in May.

It’s unclear as to whether Thorstad will one day follow in Starecki’s footsteps in taking a position in the CFL. One thing is for certain, though, and that is that she’d like to be around the game as much as possible in some capacity.

“I love growing women’s football,” Thorstad said.

“I love the game so much and love being a part of football teams, so I would absolutely love to continue to have a future in football and to work in it.”

“Right now I love working with the teams that I work with in Saskatoon. So let’s see where I end up.”

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