If Chilliwack’s Sophie Klassen leads Team B.C. to gold at this summer’s women’s flag football nationals, it’ll have happened almost by accident.
The Sardis Secondary alum and Simon Fraser University (SFU) grad didn’t have football of any sort on her radar until mere weeks ago, and Team B.C. didn’t have Klassen on their radar because she didn’t play. But all of that changed one night when she tried out without knowing she was trying out.
Klassen wrapped up her final season with the SFU women’s basketball team in March, and several staff members at the university play for the Saints, a women’s flag football team in Vancouver. They invited Klassen and her roommate/best friend Kristi Elliott to come check it out.
“Immediately I just loved it,” Klassen said. “I’ve never played football in my life but it just came very naturally to me.”
The Saints had her catching passes and she admitted she knew nothing about running routes.
“I never heard of a flag or post or corner. I had no idea about any of that,” Klassen said.
“I had a general concept of how to play because my dad is a big football fan, and from supporting my roommate on the SFU team (Elliott is a kicker for the men’s team).”
The next day Klassen was invited to another practice. Unbeknownst to her, this was actually a Team B.C. evaluation session.
Klassen had no idea she was on anyone’s radar. She was just there to have fun, but after the practice ended she got a message from SFU events coordinator and flag football player Tiffani Martinez saying the Team B.C. coach wanted to connect with her.
“I was shocked, but I think I stand out because I’ve got practice being six feet tall and mobile,” she said. “It puts attention on you when you’re a head taller than anyone else out there.”
For sure, it’s no surprise that Klassen would immediately be on a coach’s radar. She’s tall and athletic and all the quick-movement skills that made her a top hoopster with SFU translate well to the field.
Klassen didn’t originally plan on pursuing the Team B.C. opportunity though.
She’s done with b-ball at SFU, but she has plans to play pro in the United Kingdom this fall.
“That’s my priority and I didn’t want to risk getting injured and sacrifice training for basketball,” she said.
“So I didn’t give him (the Team B.C. coach) a response right away. But then I played a few games with the Saints and I just couldn’t stop smiling.
“I was having the time of my life out there.”
Klassen got back to the coach with a lukewarm commitment, which apparently was enough.
When Team B.C. selected an original group of 16 and then a travel roster of 12, she was on both. So now she’s preparing for Halifax, excited but a little uncertain about what comes next.
“A lot of these woman have played all together and know each other because there’s a really cool community in flag football, especially in the Vancouver/Surrey area,” Klassen said. “I haven’t done that and I’m definitely the rookie on the team, but it’s been super awesome how supportive they’ve been and walking me through things.”
One of the first ‘chalk talks’ she did with her new crew was about audibles. Klassen said she was texting her dad during the meeting to ask him, ‘What exactly is an audible???’
“I’m learning everything from the scratch, but with my athleticism and the fact that I’ve grown up playing so many sports, I’ve been able to figure it out on the fly and have so much fun with it,” she said.
In her most recent game she came into the huddle and told her quarterback she thought she’d be open on a five-yard out.
And she was.
“A month ago I never thought I’d know enough about reading the D to call my own play,” she enthused.
Now that she’s fallen in love with football, she doesn’t plan on giving it up. She doesn’t think they’ll have women’s football in the UK, but she’s looking into it. She definitely plans to play when she comes home for summers.
“I have no idea why I love it so much, and maybe I’m in a honeymoon stage, but every time I talk about it I just light up,” Klassen said. “It’s something to new and exciting with so much to learn and so much potential to tap into it. I 100 per cent see myself doing this for a while.“
Klassen has played in playoff games with SFU basketball, and that’s a different feeling from regular season games. But nationals will be a whole new experience. Team B.C. will do battle with other provinces in a tourney that runs June 30 to July 2.
“I’ve never done anything with a provincial team before,” she said.
“It’s pretty cool that it’s happening in a sport I’ve only been playing for a month. I think it’s going to be a little bit nerve-wracking going from casual and fun to having a job to get done.
“Winners at nationals become Team Canada too, which is interesting.
“I have to remind myself that I am doing this for fun and to soak in the experience, but for me I don’t have as much fun if it’s not super competitive. It’s built into my DNA and it’s not something I have to worry about it too much.”
See https://sirc.ca/news/football-canada-confirms-flag-football-events-of-summer-2023/ for more information.