Captain Canada Competes in Saskatoon AFFL

Former CFLer's game evolves with flag national team

By: Santino Filoso

For as long as he can remember, Joel Lipinski has played football. His 25 year pigskin career has taken him from the CJFL (Vancouver Island Raiders), to the CIS (Regina Rams & Saint Mary's Huskies), to the CFL (Saskatchewan and Edmonton) and now, to Team Canada.

When his pro career came to its conclusion in 2011, Lipinski, a die-hard Saskatchewan Roughrider and Atlanta Falcon fan, was faced with the prospect of no longer playing the game he loved. But instead of simply moving on, he took up flag football and quickly emerged as a star.

Though it wasn't always a smooth transition, Lipinski evolved his game, learning to walk the fine line between being aggressive while avoiding costly penalties. He's also become more of a vocal leader, both on and off the field.

Lipinski credits much of his success to the fact that he's been able to tie his full-time career into his part time job as Team Canada's flag football captain. As co-owner of Ignite Athletic Conditioning in Saskatoon, Lipinski spends his days training athletes who compete in the Olympics, NFL, CFL, NCAA, WHL and USport. Additionally, he's also the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for Football Canada and the University of Saskatchewan Football Team.

'My job always keeps me motivated and really ensures that I actually practice what I preach to my athletes.'

After spending five years playing weekly games in Saskatoon's Adult Flag Football League (AFFL), Lipinski and his team traveled to Halifax to compete in the 2016 Flag Nationals. As a result of winning the tournament in Nova Scotia, they became Team Canada, which in turn allowed them to head to Florida to play in the World Championships.

Despite coming up short, losing to Austria by a single score in the semi-finals, Lipinski is confident Team Canada will build off the loss and bounce back. 'Competing at the international level has given us invaluable experience,' he says. One of the things he mentions as an example is that fact that in IFAF rules, teams receive four downs for a first down (to half), whereas in most Canadian flag leagues teams receive three. 'It's a small thing but it definitely changes your play calling and strategies a bit.'

Flag football may one day become an Olympic sport and Lipinski thinks Football Canada is positioning itself to be dominant on the international stage. In August, Team Canada will travel to Waterloo, to compete in the senior flag nationals. In addition to bragging rights, the event will provide Lipinski and his teammates with strong competition and give Football Canada an opportunity to identify players from other teams who could be candidates to fill in on Team Canada's roster should injuries or the need arise.

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