Advent of PEI Island Demons brings with it strong leadership

Originally published on:

With another season of MWFL football looming on the horizon, it heralds the beginning of an exciting new chapter. Marking an exciting first in its unfolding history, the league welcomes the province of Prince Edward Island into the fold for 2019.

Identified by the daunting nomenclature “Island Demons”, PEI’s contingent signifies the fifth in league history. Taking to the gridiron for its inaugural season against the Capital Area (Fredericton) Lady Gladiators, the Halifax Xplosion, the Moncton Vipers, and the dynastic Saint John Storm, a significant element of the league’s heritage already defines the early lore of the Demons.

Among the architects of this expansion, franchise is Meagan Ferguson, who is also a league alumna. Possessing a remarkable athletic background, which included elite competition in ice hockey, Ferguson was also part of the fascinating female football movement in Atlantic Canada, having once graced the gridiron with the Lady Gladiators.

Currently occupied as a sports psychologist and an educator, Ferguson also gained a Master’s Degree from the University of Ottawa, specializing in …., Throughout her academic and professional pursuits, the love of sport never faded. Returning to PEI, the prospect of bringing female football to her home province was both promising yet potentially challenging. Finding a fellow enthusiast in a familiar face, their shared interest in sport served as the catalyst towards fulfillment a mutual vision,

“Following my Master’s degree, I had moved home (PEI) to establish my applied sport psych/mental performance consulting business and teach at Holland College. A former college classmate of mine and I, Richard Lush, had met for lunch one afternoon to see if we could get this going.

Him having great coaching plus playing plus management background, and my previous experience in the league, we felt this could be a great opportunity to provide females 18+ a new exciting option- to continue playing sport following high school, or a new opportunity to learn a new sport with new faces!

PEI has groomed some younger girls though our flag program, and has had some girls playing with boys in our contact high school league. Richard and I wanted to start this team to give those girls a place to play following high school, but also show girls who have never played that this option will be here for them to pursue.”

Taking on a role as the club’s co-founder, serving in a managerial capacity, this compelling chapter is destined to mirror the journey of another celebrated alum among the Lady Gladiators. Having also served in an administrative function in the MWFL, Cheryl O’Leary was also prevalent on the offensive line. Along with the treasured opportunity to serve in a coaching mentorship role with Canada’s national women’s team, working under the tutelage of Olivier Eddie, O’Leary’s dedication to the game encompasses an inspiration that Ferguson is destined to match.

Undoubtedly, Ferguson’s promising efforts with the Gladiators not only pays homage to O’Leary’s body of work, it positively demonstrates how the players of the MWFL can positively shape the league’s destiny, taking on key role after hanging up their helmets.

Just as instrumental in this compelling beginning is the aforementioned Lush, who shall take on the momentous position of first head coach in franchise history. Bringing a well-rounded background and a solid sporting resume, including a Vanier Cup with the University of Manitoba, and a spot on the PEI Aboriginal Sports Circle, the feeling of making history is one that has defined his enthusiasm for the position. While the lunch meeting stands as one of the defining moments of his early tenure in the formation of the Island Demons, his leadership also shines through, quick to recognize two other prominent figures in the realization of a football dream,

“This all started with an idea, and then it became a lunch meeting with Meagan Ferguson, and then the mass preparations, recruitment, and campaigning to make this all possible.

Here we are almost a year later and we have finally done something Historic for PEI, as this will mark the first time in PEI History a Female Tackle Football team will occur!

Being a part of this amazing experience has been remarkable; the ladies have been so fantastic with regards to wanting to learn the sport, fundraising, and overall helping this program become a staple of female athletics in PEI.

Without the help of Lacey Mary and Lexie Mireault, this program would not be where we are today, and we are all so proud of the program we have worked so hard over the past year!”

As opening kickoff approaches, the opportunity to have seen an idea for a new football reach fruition has resulted in a labour of love for Ferguson. Just as important is the chance to allow a new community of aspiring female footballers to experience the blend of jubilation, achievement and adrenaline that comes from gracing the gridiron, staking an assertive claim in sporting equality.

Having obtained some very inspiring life lessons from her time as a competitor with the Lady Gladiators, Ferguson is optimistic that the positive values of leadership, teamwork, respect and self-esteem shall serve as a boon in the Island’s sporting community. While the Island Demons brings her athletic endeavors full circle, the true victory for Ferguson is the chance to foster friendships, provide encouragement while instilling an inspiring confidence,

“Finally, I can only speak for myself, but one thing I am excited for is to see empowered women empower (other) women. I have been an elite multi-sport athlete my entire life, and no other sport has ever clicked for me the way football has; and I see and hear the same feedback from many women around the league.

Football teaches you a lot about yourself (self-awareness), and teaches you a lot about others (group cohesion). As a certified mental performance consultant (applied sport psych), I am fascinated with motivation, teamwork and sport confidence. I personally feel that football pushes limits and creates possibilities unlike any other team sport.

Knowing that female sport participation drops dramatically, especially following high school, our hope is that the Island Demons can give girls, and women, an option to learn the game and love to play it.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”