(Ava Thorsell of Stittsville and recent Grade 8 graduate of A. Lorne Cassidy Elementary School has been chosen to play flag football on the Team Ontario West team. The team will be travelling to Antigonish, Nova Scotia to play in the National Flag Football Championships from July 30 to August 3, 2023. Photos: provided.)
Stittsville resident and recent A. Lorne Cassidy grade 8 graduate, fourteen-year-old Ava Thorsell started playing women’s flag football for the Kanata Knights U14 team in 2022-23 and had a very successful season. After playing with the Knights, Ava heard about a Team Ontario ID Camp run by Football Ontario.
The camp took place in February at Carleton University. Regarding the camp, Ava said, “Everyone was very kind and supportive and they pushed you to do your best.” After the first camp, Ava was invited to participate in a series of virtual meetings that included presentations about nutrition, mental health, motivation, and ‘playbook’ discussions.
During these sessions, Ava “learned about nutrition, mental health, women in sport, having a good mindset, a healthy lifestyle, and much much more.” She says, “There were guest speakers, who were all so inspiring, and I can confidently say they were a big part of my confidence, inspiration and healthy mindset going into these next steps.”
Following the online sessions, Ava signed up to play with the Trillium team, a group of individual players, at the provincial tournament in Georgetown in June and was subsequently invited to a final development camp held at York University a week later. At this final camp, Ava says, “they looked at not only individual skills but team building”.
Throughout the whole tryout process, Ava remembered to keep her love for the game in mind. She shares that one of her main goals in football is to “always play whether it be competitively or not. I’d always like to have football in my life and do what makes me happy and that’s football! I’d also like to continue competitive football after these steps in my life, and after that, I’d like to start something to advocate for and support women and girls in sports.”
One thing Ava learned to keep in mind throughout this whole process was that, “a massive part of football or any sport, for that matter, is your mindset, and how you look at the sport. You can either go in strong and try your absolute best and not give up or you can do the opposite and see where that gets you. There’s always a time in any sport where you make a mistake and that might get to your head but a part of confidence in sports is not letting it get in your head. Shake it off, keep going, keep trying your hardest, and never give up on yourself.”
After the lengthy identification process, Ava found out that she made Team Ontario West on June 19th after getting a surprise call from Coach Lu Cruz, the Head Coach of Team Ontario West. This means she will get to compete on the Ontario West team in the U-16 National Flag Football Championships in Antigonish, Nova Scotia from July 30 to August 3, 2023.
In the time leading up to the National Championship, Ava will head to Oakville every Thursday evening for practice. Ava is looking forward to building new skills and gaining new knowledge of the game, but above all else, she looks forward to spending time with her fellow talented teammates.
“The relationships you build are ones you will never forget. A team isn’t just a group of people who play football together, they are your family. Just as you would your own family, you look out for each other, have each other’s backs, and hype each other up. The connections you make on any team are, like I said, unforgettable,” Ava shares. “Football isn’t a sport that one person plays, so no matter how your individual game is going, always be there for your team. When people say “teamwork makes the dream work” they’re really not lying! So my final words to anyone reading (especially young, aspiring athletes), are to try your best, try new things and don’t give up just because things get hard.”
As you may have noticed through the many thoughts she has shared in this article, Ava is an incredibly mature and level-headed girl with lots of talent in football. We wish her the best of luck at the National Championship in Antigonish later this month!