University Affairs: Meet Reina Iizuka, the first woman on the roster of a USports men’s football team
According to the University of Manitoba Bisons’ head football coach Brian Dobie, there are several factors that make a great football player and teammate: size, strength and speed, for sure; but also vitally important are technical proficiency, a dedicated work ethic and willingness to learn. Reina Iizuka, a linebacker and the first woman to play on a U Sports men’s football team, impressed the coach on a number of these factors.
Mr. Dobie and Ms. Iizuka, now 20, met at a football training camp north of Toronto when she was still in high school. “I remember saying, ‘Wow, that guy’s a great tackler,’” Mr. Dobie recalls. A nearby coach replied, “Well, that guy is a girl.”
The Bisons’ coach struck up a conversation with Ms. Iizuka during the camp, where her enthusiasm for the game as well as her high level of technical skill made her stand out. “What struck me wasn’t the fact that she was a girl; I’ve seen girls playing on high school teams before,” he says. “It was her passion. She was a young woman on a path, with a very direct plan.”
“From the beginning, coach Dobie and I shared a mutual respect for each other. I feel we have an honest relationship. He cares about my best interests,” says Ms. Iizuka. “I’m very grateful to be in his program.”
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