The Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture has recognised the Finnish Federation of American Football (SAJL) with the Piikkarit equality award on 04.12.2018. Founded in 1995, the award aims to promote equality and diversity in sports. In a traditionally very masculine sport, The Nordic Girls’ Camp project has for the first time given girls the possibility to take part in an all-girls tackle football camp, and provided them a safe and encouraging community, where they can grow as athletes and women.
The Nordic Girl’s camp joins 12-20-year-old girls from the Nordic Countries to practice, play and spend time together. In addition to the new skills, training and lectures, the girls also get to share their experiences, feelings and thoughts on all aspects of life. The camp provides a unique opportunity for the girls to meet their peers, as even if the numbers are growing, there are still less girls than boys in the American football fields.
American football first came to Finland in the mid 1970’s, but even if Finland is one of the pioneers of women’s football, the first Women’s tackle football Championships were played only in 2008. When Nana Olavuo started as a 6-year-old in 2007, she had to practice with boys double her age. According to Nana, the sport has given her a lot of both mental and physical strength, goal orientation, a lot of friends and international connections while being able to be herself both within the sport and in the girls’ camps.
The AF Girls’ Camp is organised two times a year as a joint project of the Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish Federations of American Football. The aim is to make the Camp a permanent model that prompts girls’ participation and international cooperation, in order to be able to establish all girls’ teams and leagues in all the participating countries. In the future the objective is to be able to hold Nordic Championships for girls the same way as boys already have. After receiving the award, the Nordic Girls’ Camp has gained attention and approval in the USA and Canada.
Alexandra Naumanen from the SAJL board agrees that there’s still a lot of work ahead in all Nordic countries concerning both women’s teams and the growth of junior departments in the sport clubs.
– Change requires individuals to work for a common goal, change of attitudes and time, she says.
In the future Nana wants to advance to the College League in the USA.
– With support and hard work, it’s possible. I want to become as good as I can and make it easier for younger girls in the American football, she says.
The idea of the Nordic Girls’ Camp started at the Nordic Children and Youth Sports Conference organised by the Danish Olympic Committee in Denmark September 2017. The recognition award given to the SAJL is worth 3 000 euros. the Sport services of the City of Oulu received the main price of 4 000 euros.
Photo: Anu Tiilikainen