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Mississauga native attempting to become first female to play U Sports football

DAN RALPH, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Feb 27th, 2019

Reina Iizuka is Canadian university football’s best-kept secret.

The five-foot-seven, 160-pound defensive back is entering her third year at the University of Manitoba, having been a red-shirted player on the Bisons in 2018.

Red-shirted players, who practise but do not dress for games, usually aren’t in the spotlight. However, it’s a different story for the 19-year-old Iizuka, who is believed to be the first woman to appear on a U Sports football roster.

The well-spoken native of Mississauga applied to Manitoba in 2017, but wasn’t on the roster her first year, working out with the team while she recovered from a knee injury.

Iizuka sees herself as a football player first, but understands how others can consider her a trail-blazer and pioneer in her chosen sport.

“I’m someone who plays the game but I also realize with that will be responsibilitycp,” she said during a telephone interview. “I’m just a player but at the same time I’m that (pioneer) as well.

“It’s something I aspire to be. I don’t think I’m mentally there yet, but I’m working hard to become that.”

Iizuka will be part of the CFL contingent participating in the NFL Women’s Careers in Football Forum this week in Indianapolis. Joining her will be Christina Litz, the CFL’s chief marketing officer, Ryan Janzen, the league’s senior director of football operations, Erin Craig (strength and conditioning director for the Saint Mary’s University football program), Andrea Eccleston (equipment/team administrator, University of Saskatchewan) and Kristine Walker (associate head strength and conditioning coach, University Western Ontario).

“Honestly, it’s really humbling because I feel like I’m the baby in the room,” Iizuka said with a chuckle. “There are just so many qualified professional women … and to be in the same place as them, hopefully I can learn a lot.”

Bisons head coach Brian Dobie made it clear Iizuka had earned her spot in his program. That’s quite a statement from the winningest football coach in school history (92-90-1), who is entering his 24th season at Manitoba.

“I didn’t do this to make a political statement that I’m going to be the coach or we’re going to be the program that’s going to give this young woman a chance and be a breakthrough,” Dobie said. “I brought her here because of her drive, passion and determination and she had the skill level and experience to back it up.

“Winning in my job is really important, but more important is the student-athlete experience. We’ve certainly done our share of winning at Manitoba, but I’m proud of the student-athlete experience.”

Dobie, 66, fondly remembers watching Iizuka for the first time while serving as a guest coach at a summer football camp in the Toronto area. Her rapport with Dobie was a key reason she chose Manitoba.

“I was at a tackling drill and there was a player who made two or three impressive tackles in a row,” Dobie said. “I literally turned to one of the coaches I was standing beside and said, ‘Wow, he’s a really good tackler.’

“And he replied, ‘Yeah coach, that guy is a girl.’ So she went to the back of the line and I went over and gave her a coaching tip and we had a brief chat. We talked again at lunch and I was immediately struck by her passion and drive for being the best player she could and taking it as far as she could. She was really impressive.”

Iizuka immediately reminded Dobie of another passionate athlete – his daughter, Caleigh, who was a member of the Manitoba women’s volleyball team that won a Canadian university championship in 2014.

“I’m a coach but also the proud father of a daughter who did everything she could to be the best she could be in her chosen sport,” Dobie said. “I see Reina as a young person who’s trying to do the best she can to be the best she can in her chosen sport.

“The difference? She faces a huge uphill battle because her sport is literally loaded from top to bottom with men.”

The biggest challenges Iizuka faces are physical, given many of her male counterparts are bigger, stronger and faster. But Dobie said Iizuka easily matches her teammates’ work ethic, football intellect and heart.

“She works really hard and does all the right things,” he said. “She sits at the very front of our classroom every meeting, she’s literally in the front row and taking notes.

“I wish all of our guys would be in the front row taking notes, honestly.”

Dobie said the majority of Bisons players are good with having Iizuka aboard. And he has a simple message for the few who might not be.

“She has earned her position to this point as much as anything because of her attitude,” said Dobie, whose program has produced NFLers Israel Idonije and David Onyemata. “Not everyone in our program is a first-team all-Canadian and going to the NFL or CFL.

“We have players who’ll be challenged as they go through their university career to ever start but they’re here because they’re workaholics and have great attitudes. Reina can stand in that room and certainly say, ‘Look, the role I play here is an important role.”

Iizuka played minor football with boys in both Mississauga and Toronto growing up and said she’s never had an issue gaining acceptance from her male counterparts. However, Iizuka often felt she had more to prove on the field.

“Just because I’m a girl, I think some people are going to test you differently,” she said. “I’m tenacious and I think I have a strong mentality … Yes, it’s been difficult but at the same time I’ve really enjoyed the process. I love training, I love studying film and I really love the connections I’ve been able to make with people in the community.”

As for the biggest challenge she’s faced, Iizuka said that’s come from within.

“It was realizing at a young age I could only control what I could control and within that try to optimize all the potential and opportunity in front of me,” she said. “The physical is a given, biologically it’s what it is.

“I realize you have to maximize your gifts and being a female I think I have a different perspective on things. I’m pretty agile and quick but I think liking to learn the game is the strength I have and it’s important to capitalize on that.”

Ultimately, though, it will be up to Iizuka to determine whether she’s able to play for Manitoba. Dobie, for one, isn’t betting against her.

“Oh no,” he said. “The rules say we can dress 50 players at home and we’re going to carry 85 to 90 so you can do the math.

“Can she make her way through that group and get to the top 50? It will be extremely difficult, no question, but she’s overcome a lot just to get here.

“We have this conversation all the time. She’s the first to say she’s a football player and not a woman on the football field. OK Reina, then you have to go prove it. You have to go out there and face all the bullets that are flying around, that’s no different than anybody else.”

Iizuka, for one, believes she has the ability to play for the Bisons.

“Oh, no doubt,” she said. “We have a great team and everyone coming into the program is good enough to play.

“Even if it’s for one game, I see it happening. I guess the worst that can happen is I learn a lot about football and don’t get on the field. At the same time, that’s not bad at all.”

Dobie said Iizuka will have many opportunities to remain in football after her university career is over.

“You could go to 200 football clinics and you wouldn’t learn what you learn in a university program over that four-to-five-year period of time,” he said. “I think Reina could end up having a career where she’s very impactful in the sport of football, I honestly do.

“I think this opportunity affords her the ability to become an expert in the sport of her choosing and should open doors for her to pursue many, many different paths and not discounting the ability to go further as a player but in other areas as well.”

Woman in chair-throwing video granted bail

NEWS STAFF | posted Thursday, Feb 14th, 2019

The woman who was allegedly filmed in a video throwing a chair from a balcony narrowly missing the Gardiner Expressway over the weekend has been released on bail after surrendered to police.

Marcella Zoia, 19, of Toronto, was by herself when she walked into 52 division just at 7 a.m. Wednesday.

Zoia appeared in court Wednesday afternoon and was charged with one count each of mischief endangering life, mischief endangering property under $5,000 and common nuisance. She was released on $2,000 bail and ordered to live with her mother. She must also not have any contact with the four individuals that were with her at the time.

Her lawyer said she was embarrassed and understands the public anger generated by the alleged incident.

“She wishes it never happened,” Greg Leslie told reporters after his client was granted bail. “Of course, she would never wish anybody would be hurt.”

Leslie said she understands the public outage. He said he’ll have discussions with the prosecution and said it might not go to trial but said he’ll see how it develops.

Jenna Periti, who has known Zoia from the time they attended St. Elizabeth Catholic High School, in Thornhill called her a smart girl and said the video “does not do her justice.” She said Zoia came to Canada from Brazil just before ninth grade and lived with her mom. She said she was with people who didn’t graduate high school and who like to drink rather than go to school.

The woman allegedly threw items off the balcony, including two chairs, from around the 45th floor of a highrise on Bremner Boulevard.

The incident is believed to have taken place on Saturday morning. No injuries were reported.

Police said the apartment the furniture was allegedly tossed from was being used as a “short-term rental property” but could not say which company it was rented through.

Airbnb said Wednesday that it has contacted Toronto police and offered its support in the investigation.

The company said it has no evidence that the woman was an Airbnb user but it has suspended the account of a guest with a reservation at that building pending further review.

“We remain outraged by the blatant disregard for community safety on display in the video,” the company said in a statement.

Toronto Mayor John Tory condemned the alleged actions, saying they can’t be tolerated.

“This was not just something that was sort of a lark gone bad,” he said. “It was grossly irresponsible behaviour that could have caused serious injury and death.”

Police said Tuesday they identified the woman but did not publicly name her. Officers had given her about 24 hours to turn herself in.

Video available here

Should you rent or buy your home?

Cityline | posted Wednesday, Jul 20th, 2016

Buying a home is a dream for many, but it might not always be the most realistic choice. Personal finance expert Bruce Sellery explains the pros and cons of buying or renting a home in today’s housing market.

Financial factors to consider when buying include:

  • The price of the house
  • Amortization in years
  • Condo fees
  • Property taxes
  • Utilities
  • Maintenance – paint, roof, appliances, etc.
  • Renovations
  • Price appreciation – how much will the price increase?
  • Duration: how long will you live there? Real estate commission: five per cent of the sale price ($600,000 house is $30,000 thousand).

Other important factors to consider when thinking about buying a home:

  • It is a trade-off. For example, if you want a walk-in closet, is it worth sacrificing a vacation in the sun?
  • The bank will calculate what you can afford based on whether you will default on the loan – they do not consider any other investments such as retirement savings, kids’ education or any personal luxuries.

Financial factors to consider when renting include:

  • Price of rent
  • Investment return – you have to invest that money, how much will it earn?

The advantages of owning a home include:

  • Forced savings: you might not pay your credit cards or your car loan, but you will pay your mortgage.
  • Nesting: some people just want to own and fix their place up just the way they want it.

The advantages of renting include:

  • It is cheaper – it can cost less, depending on where you live.
  • It is worry-free – if you have a good landlord, you can call them when the roof leaks.
  • It is flexible – you’re 27 years old, you can accept a job and move across the country at a moment’s notice.  It is way harder to do it if you own.
  • It can free up capital – a senior without a pension.  If all your money is in your house, how are you going to pay for groceries?

Courtesy of Cityline

How to simplify your holiday wrapping

Cityline | posted Thursday, Nov 26th, 2015

Love holiday shopping but dread the wrapping part? Chatelaine‘s design expert Samantha Pynn helps us make gift wrapping easy!

Before you get started, Samantha says you need to have 5 key things to make a simple yet elegant wrapped gift:

  1. Neutral wrapping paper
  2. Ribbon
  3. Tags
  4. Stamp
  5. Accessories

Got your essentials? Now watch Samantha’s video below for all of her wrapping tips!

How to boost your immune system naturally

Cityline | posted Thursday, Nov 5th, 2015

With cold and flu season around the corner, it is important to keep your immune system strong and your body in tiptop shape. By doing so, you will have a far better chance of fighting off any nasty bugs that you may be exposed to over the next fall and winter months.

What is the immune system?
In short, the immune system is a combination of cells and organs that work together to help you avoid sickness and disease, which can lead to coughs, colds and flus. The immune system can be likened to a powerful army that has various weapons such as anti-bodies and white blood cells. When an invader “attacks” in the form of a bacteria, virus or allergenic food, a response is issued by the immune system to protect your body. Conditions such as sleep deprivation, stress, poor diet, lack of exercise and an excess intake of alcohol can weaken the immune system response and leave you susceptible to getting sick.

Can I improve my immune system?
Yes! Absolutely – your immune system can be strengthened (or weakened) by various food and lifestyle approaches. To keep your immune system function strong, simply implement a few of the steps below:

Go for garlic: Garlic is an immune boosting superstar. Eaten in raw form or in capsule form, research has shown garlic to be a very powerful preventative agent against coughs, colds and chest infections during the winter months. Odorless garlic capsules are available at your local health food store.

Get your zzzz’s: Sleep is the time where your body repairs and re-builds. If you are sleep deprived or suffer from interrupted sleep, the immune system can become depressed and an increase of inflammatory chemicals can occur. In order to get some sound sleep, opt for lavender on your pillow, sleep in a room that is completely dark, and avoid watching TV before bed.

Supplement with vitamin D: Canadians who live in colder climates typically have limited sunny months and can become deficient in the immune-boosting vitamin D. According to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, people with low levels of vitamin D are more susceptible to catching colds. For supplementation reasons, most experts suggest supplementing with a minimum of 1000 IU per day.

Avoid white sugar: Eating too much white sugar can cause fatigue, weight gain and can suppress immune system function. An excess amount of white sugar found in pop, candy and other refined food dampens your white blood cell response, referred to as your leucocytic index response. White blood cells are part of the “army” that the immune system uses to ensure harmful microbes such as bacteria or viruses do not grab hold. Instead of eating white sugar, turn to natural sweet foods such as berries, mangos, apples, apple sauce and naturally dried fruit for a healthier type of snack.

Additional immune boosting tips include:

  • Hydrate with a minimum of 2 liters of water per day.
  • Add probiotics (“good bacteria”) into your daily diet such as those found in yogurt or in capsule form.
  • Be with your friends! Research show those who socialize and spend time with loved ones enjoy better health and longevity.
  • Lighten up your eating. When you are under the weather, your body does not actually have to eat a lot of food. If you do fall ill this winter, drink warm liquids and eat organic chicken soup until you feel stronger.
  • Remember to wash your hands! Infections can be transmitted via contact such as sneezing, coughing or touching surfaces that have been sneezed or coughed on.
  • Boost your vitamin C intake by eating citrus fruits and broccoli, as well as in supplement form.
  • Sweat it out: Engage in physical activity on a regular basis to reduce cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone that when over secreted by the adrenal glands, can cause your immune system to weaken.

Thinking about getting the flu vaccine this year? Cityline guest expert Dr. Joelene Huber recently talked about the vaccine on Breakfast Television Toronto — watch the video below to learn more.

Courtesy Dr. Joey Shulman

Quick tips to simplify your routine and stay healthy for fall

Cityline | posted Tuesday, Sep 22nd, 2015

Trying to get back on track with your health for fall? Follow Dr. Joey Shulman‘s quick tips for you and your family to stay healthy all year long!

Tip #1: Eat healthy snacks
Having healthy snacks on hand are great for keeping you and your family on a healthy track. Make sure you always have healthy options whether you’re on-the-go or at home, such as nuts, fruit, or healthy bars. Also check out some nut-free snacks to pack for school lunches.

Tip #2: Get organized
Being organized is vital when you’re planning to stay on track. Plan out lunches and dinners ahead of time with your children (or just for you!) to make grocery shopping a lot easier. Planning ahead can also help your kids get excited for meals.

Tip #3: Stay hydrated
Buying a water bottle that you like will make you more likely to drink more water throughout the day. Always keep an empty one in your bag, in the car, or at the office.

Tip #4: Wash your hands
As back-to-school time approaches, so does flu season. Make sure you and your kids are staying healthy by washing your hands before and after meals. Try to also have hand sanitizer at your disposal in case you don’t have access to a sink.

For Joey’s 7 healthy fall recipes, click here.

20 easy nut-free snack recipes your kids will love

Cityline | posted Thursday, Sep 3rd, 2015

Need some new snack ideas for the school year? We’ve rounded up our favourite recipes that fit perfectly into lunch boxes, and best of all, they’re all school-safe and nut-free!

Pina-Colada-MuffinsMuffins and banana bread are a perfect afternoon snack, or an on-the-go breakfast! We love these tropical pina colada muffins, these hearty raspberry oat bran muffins, and these yummy blueberry-lemon streusel crunch muffins which are a delicious twist on a classic. If you’re a banana bread fan, try this super healthy (and easy!) spelt and chocolate banana bread.

Want to sneak a few more fruits & veggies into your kids’ lunch? We love these risotto, spinach and kale cakes and these three fresh fruit salsas.

Granola bars are easy to pick up at the grocery store, but if you make them at home they’ll be cheaper, healthier, and even more delicious! You can also personalize the ingredients to match your child’s favourite flavours. For a sweet and salty mix, try these chocolate-pretzel granola bars! For something more traditional, we love these cranberry granola balls. And if you need a boost of energy, these power crisp treats will do the trick.

mar4-chickpeasLooking for a bit of crunch, without all the fat and salt of potato chips? Try these sweet and spicy maple-cinnamon roasted chickpeas or apple chips!

Cookies are always a popular snack choice for kids of any age (and adults, too)! If you don’t have any dietary concerns to consider, try our ultimate chocolate chip cookie or our classic oatmeal raisin cookie. Can’t eat gluten? Try our gluten-free crispy and chewy chocolate chip cookies!

Dips are a great way to get your kids to eat their veggies! Cut up their favourite crudités (or try our easy buttery edamame!) and pair them with our creamy roasted sweet potato & white bean dip, our Mexican-inspired black bean and sweet corn guacamole dip, or our homemade hummus with roasted red peppers.

What’s your go-to school snack? Let us know if you whip up one of our recipes by posting a photo on your social media accounts with the hashtag #mycityline!

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