By Nick Zacharias
PHOTO BY SANDRA ECKEL
This year’s female-friendly executive members for the Saint-Lazare Stallions Football Association pose at the first practice of a hopeful season. They are (left to right) Marie-Jude Villard (Treasurer), Stephanie Franc (Secretary), Alexandra Veilleux (President), Kelly Delorme (Registrar) and Natasha Crudup (Vice-President), the first all-female executive in the league’s history.
The Saint-Lazare Stallions Football Association has a long and proud history in the community, one which goes back now over 20 years. This year, as players return in carefully managed stages after a year of COVID-19 restrictions and upheaval, there will be one more big change – for the first time, the elected executives running the association are all women.
Didn’t even realize
There were eight people running for five positions on this year’s executive who are voted in by the members. The fact that all those who were elected happened to be women didn’t even occur to them as exceptional at first. “It wasn’t something we tried to orchestrate; we didn’t even realize it,” recalled newly-elected President Alexandra Veilleux. “When we got to the end of the meeting where they voted I stopped and said, ‘Oh my god, we’re all women!’”
Veilleux takes over for President and Founder Anson Williams who started the association that’s seen about 2,400 boys and girls pass through its ranks over the last two decades and who finally stepped down as president after last year’s shortened season. “He spent 20 years growing the Stallions and now it’s being handed over to an all-woman team,” said Veilleux, adding that he’s still been very much present and supportive as Past-President during the transition. “I call him all the time!” she said with a laugh.
As the Stallions were preparing to come back to Saint Robert Park for their first practice this week after a long hiatus, the executive were working hard to get everything ready. “It’s a bit stressful,” admits Veilleux, who says she sometimes has to be reminded to breathe. “Once the first practice day is done everything will calm down a bit.”
She said the executive, perhaps because they’re all women, are a supportive unit.
“Some might see that we’re all women and say, ‘What are they all doing there?’ Others I know think it’s great. In the end we’re all football moms, we know what it’s all about. And we’re really a team, the executive all support each other.”
PHOTO COURTESY SAINT-LAZARE STALLIONS
Saint Lazare Stallions football players, like the ones seen here, are getting ready for a new season and this year they'll be supported by a first ever all-female executive.
“Some of these players haven’t seen their teammates in a year,” said Veilleux, following the cancellation of most sports last summer. The look of things is still not back to normal but the restrictions are gradually being lifted. Said Veilleux, “There are still guidelines. Thankfully they took away making kids wear masks under their helmets, but we’re limited in group size to 25 at a time,” which is easy enough to accomplish by practicing offence, defence and special teams separately. “There’s no tackling yet, but we’re hoping things will settle down.”
With the province just starting to reawaken after over a year of COVID-19 restrictions, the league doesn’t even have a schedule for games yet but the women of the executive feel they’re moving in the right direction and they’re watching to see how other teams are coping with differing regulations in other parks. Says Veilleux, “We’re confident. Everything looks good, everything looks much better than it did this time last year.”
Whatever the season looks like as summer rolls into fall, electing a pioneer all-female executive is one achievement the Saint-Lazare Stallions can already check off their list.