Kirstin Nakatani Part of Heart and Soul for Lethbridge Steel

Mark StaffieriContributor IIMay 22, 2013

Image obtained from Lethbridge Steel facebook page:!/LethbridgeSteel?fref=ts
Image obtained from Lethbridge Steel facebook page:!/LethbridgeSteel?fref=ts

Donning the No. 99 for the Lethbridge Steel, Kristin Nakatani proves she is a great contributor to the success of the franchise. With great heart and soul, Nakatani is part of Lethbridge’s effort towards becoming one of the premier franchises in the Western Women’s Canadian Football League.

Having played footall with boys as a teenager, Nakatani is not afraid of a challenge. Like many competitors in the WWCFL, her introduction to the game came courtesy of the great Western franchises in the Canadian Football League. Her love of the game was also strongly influenced by her father. 

“My dad introduced me to football at a young age. He had season tickets to the Edmonton Eskimos and would take me to games every summer when I visited him.”

“When I decided I wanted to play football in grade 8 for the St. Francis Bombers, he did not question it and signed the permission slip. When I learned of the Lethbridge Steel in 2011, and after playing grades 8, 9 and 11 with the boys, I knew I had to play for the women's team—it was only natural.”

For Nakatani, a great point of pride is the fact that she is more than just a football player, but she is also a mother. As the WWCFL has many mothers that compete in the league, it is an aspect that she finds very unique and special to the game.

“Even though my daughter is still very young, I want to be a positive role model in her life. Someone she can look up to as being a strong, confident and independent woman—football lets me showcase these traits.”

In addition to competing on the field, Nakatani also contributes to the Steel off the field. A former team president, she currently serves on the club’s executive as a director, providing the players of the franchise with a strong presence. When asked if she considered herself a leader, she replied:

 I've never really thought about it, but I guess I must be! When our founder, Becky Medel, stepped down as president to pursue an education in Edmonton, I felt very strongly about stepping into the president role and it seemed only natural. I am passionate about being involved in an organization that breaks stereotypes about women and provides positive role models for young girls in our community.

I stepped down from the president role after having my daughter simply because the work load was too much. Yet I wanted to continue to be involved on and off the field—being a director allows that while providing a voice for the women I play with.

Nakatani and her Steel teammates had the opportunity to play for the WWCFL championship in 2012. While their ambitions of claiming their first ever title were denied by the undefeated Saskatoon Valkyries, it has only served to fuel the motivation for this season. Nakatani mentioned what it will take for the Steel to win a championship in 2013:

“A lot of hard work and dedication. We are a small team, both in size and stature, but we've always had big heart. Our big heart brings us together and we are, really, a big cohesive family. When we have that cohesiveness, we play really well together, and that's key.”

Working tirelessly on and off the field, Nakatani is an integral component towards providing the franchise with a solid future. After the 2012 season, Nakatani had earned one of the team’s awards. Having won the Steel’s Coaches Award, it provided her with a great sense of accomplishment. To have the honor bestowed upon her was truly one of the highlights in her career.

“I was extremely shocked when I heard my name! It is just that, an immense honor.  It feels amazing to have your hard work recognized and acknowledged. My trophy sits proudly in my living room where I am reminded to always give my best and strive for better.”

*All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated*