jennifer yang for metro toronto
When Genevieve Plourde tells people what she does with her weekends, she’s often met with some raised eyebrows.
Every Friday night between April and December, the 30-year-old investment manager kicks off her heels and grabs her helmet. Plourde then drives south for three to 12 hours, eventually landing somewhere in New York State where she’ll have her weekly practice with the Empire State Roar, her Women’s Professional Football League (WPFL) team.
“I’m not particularly tall so it’s a big shock for people,” chuckles Plourde, who is the only Canadian playing in the WPFL. “They think that all football players are big, giant people.”
At 5’6, Plourde might not have the towering physique most people expect from a football player, but she’s more than capable of pulling her weight on the field. Growing up, Plourde was a regular renaissance kid in all things athletic, participating in everything from ballet and figure skating to soccer and hockey. “In gym class, I would always get picked first, even before the boys,” she recalls.
Plourde didn’t get into football until she was about 22 however, during a temporary stint in Toronto. After getting her economics degree from Concordia University, she permanently relocated to Toronto and started playing football with a local league (which Plourde still plays in, even during the WPFL season).
When Plourde learned of a full contact league in the States, she was immediately intrigued. “One of the teams closest to Toronto was in Rochester and they were holding tryouts,” she says. “To make a long story short, I just decided to show up.” She showed up sure enough and Plourde was a shoo-in for the team, accepted even before tryouts were over. “(One of the coaches) said, ‘Absolutely, we’re keeping you!’ It was kind of a shock to me,” she recalls.
Plourde now plays running back and tight end, and is charging full-steam ahead into her fourth season with the WPFL. Playing professional women’s football comes with many sacrifices however, and since the team doesn’t pay a salary, Plourde has to juggle it with her 10-hours-a-day job. She also has to pay for U.S. health insurance to cover any injuries she might sustain on the field.
It’s all more than worth it for Plourde however, and every week as Friday creeps nearer, she finds herself itching to get back onto the field.
“It’s like a drug, the smell of the turf,” she says. “Sometimes I tell myself ‘Oh God, I don’t want to be at practice today’ but the moment I step on the field, I forget it.”