By Matt Kieltyka
The media blitz settled down, and Elliott settled into a regular role on the team. But she realized she had a platform to do what was most important to her: inspire other girls and women to pursue their dreams. “I’m doing interviews for all the other women out there that think they can’t do something, and maybe my story will help them.
Kristie Elliott is determined to convert her history-making season on the Simon Fraser University men’s football team into a touchdown for all women. The kicker was a track and field athlete who ended up on the football team by successfully kicking a field goal as a dare and impressing the players and coaches. She became the first Canadian female to play and score in a North American college football game last September.
By the end of the season, Elliott had appeared in six games, was recognized as a 2021 GNAC Football All-Conference Team honorable mention, and was named to 3rd Down Nation’s Third Team of NCAA All-Canadians.
This summer, she will represent Canada at Finland’s International Federation of American Football Women’s World Championship. Her exploits on the field cast a bright spotlight on her, with local, national, and international media clamoring to tell her incredible story.
“Confidence has been the biggest thing,” she says. “Before, I needed people to like me and have their approval. Now I’m confident in myself and, as an individual, have the confidence to make my own decisions. I feel like my football experience definitely prepared me for that.”
Elliott admits the media pressure after her first historic game was intense. “I struggled a lot when all the media attention came,” she says. “There were a lot of interviews after every game and many people reaching out. That was very overwhelming. I’m just out here playing the game I love with my team, and I didn’t really care about all the publicity.”
The media blitz settled down, and Elliott settled into a regular role on the team. But she realized she had a platform to do what was most important to her: inspire other girls and women to pursue their dreams. “I’m doing interviews for all the other women out there that think they can’t do something, and maybe my story will help them.”
While she’s excited for more football to come this year, she has set her sights on a career in motivational speaking so she can continue to inspire other women. “I want to teach people about the benefit of being involved in multiple sports and empower females, tell them they literally can do anything,” she said. “Gender? Screw that. I play football with men. I want women to know that there are so many possibilities for them that are traditionally male-dominated, so go out and succeed. That’s what I want to do and focus on after football.”
Admittedly, she is sometimes a shy person. Elliott said her time on the football team and at Simon Fraser University has generally helped her grow in leaps and bounds since she first arrived on campus. When she was just starting at Simon Fraser University, she would have never considered a future in public speaking. “Confidence has been the biggest thing,” she says. “Before, I needed people to like me and have their approval. Now I’m confident in myself and, as an individual, have the confidence to make my own decisions. I feel like my football experience definitely prepared me for that. And having to do school presentations and putting myself out there and talking in front of strangers helped me develop my public speaking.”
After Elliott was named to the national women’s team and she’s still growing into the idea of becoming a leader, her coaching staff has no doubt. Jerome Erdman, SFU’s defensive coordinator, and linebackers coach, said: “Kristie has great leadership skills and an excellent work ethic. She knows the difficulty of being in a tough environment. She overcame adversity on and off the field and has always handled that well. I’ve seen her come out of her shell a bit more. She’s being more vocal and asserting herself more, which are great signs for her future.”
Elliott has already seen the impact her presence can have on others while participating in a youth football coaching program last year. “We had a big group of kids from all ages, up to Grade 12. It was mostly boys, but there was one girl there, and when the day started, she was super timid,” she said. “One of the coaches asked me to go talk to her. I spent some time with her and told her my story; by the end of the day, she was just killing it. It’s cool how I had an impact on her.”
That bodes well for Elliott’s legacy on and off the field.