As a girl, I remember noticing powerful women and studying them. My mom was the first one I noticed, for obvious reasons. She was a high school teacher and at one point a mom of 4 kids under 8 (I was the oldest). Having 2 boys under 3 now, all I can say is… HOW?! But that’s not all she did – as if just one of those things wasn’t enough.
When I was 5 years old, she began driving me every Saturday morning to Brantford, a city about 45 minutes away from us just so I could play in the basketball league because there wasn’t one closer. As a 5 year old playing basketball I basically just bopped around the court, cluelessly following the crowd. We looked like a hive of bees mindlessly swarming the ball. Yet my mom drove me every Saturday morning to play because she valued the sport and my development that much. Finally, she’d had enough. Instead of taking me out of basketball because it was too hard to get me there on her own with (at that time) two younger kids in tow, she decided to just start her own league in our hometown of Guelph. Yeah, cuz it’s just that easy. For her though, it was just a matter of will. I recall her up until 4am, 5am, sometimes not sleeping at all, working her ass off on CYO Basketball stuff after she’d finished doing her teaching lessons and putting 4 kids to bed. She never complained, she just did it. I’m not sure if she knew how closely I was watching her, observing her hard work. I think most people, like her, who lead quietly by doing don’t even realize how much they’re influencing others.
I’m so proud to say she was a catalyst for Guelph basketball. Years later, several women my age (and many younger ones) went on to do great things in the sport. Of course, they had countless mentors, coaches, and earned their successes on their own merit and hard work, but I’m so proud of my mom for starting CYO Basketball in Guelph and giving these amazing female athletes, who started out as little girls, a place to start playing. She literally got the ball rolling. We all know what sport does for girls; for me, it instilled confidence, inner strength, kept me (mostly) out of trouble, and developed a love for competition on and off the court.
I learned a lot from my mom’s example as a young girl – the strongest thing being that everything is a matter of will. There was no “can’t” or “should I,” it was simply, if you want it, get it. If you dream it, do it. Now, watching the Olympics I feel like I’ve been transported back to when I was a girl, in awe of powerful women. From beach volleyball players like Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross to the phenomenal Simone Biles and the rest of the Final 5 US women’s gymnastics team to unbelievable swimmers like 16-year-old Canadian Penny Oleksiak, I watch these strong women – who used to be girls – fulfilling their dreams.
These women who lead by example are powerful beyond measure – possibly beyond their own understanding. Because if watching these women makes me feel empowered, imagine the effect they’re having on young girls watching. I feel like my heart could burst thinking of all the girls out there watching these unbelievably talented, hardworking, and unapologetically strong female athletes, thinking “Hey, maybe I can do that too.” Sometimes all someone needs is to see someone like them, doing something amazing, to imagine themselves doing something amazing. Believing is the first step. During these Olympic games, get your daughters in front of a TV when these women perform, watch their eyes light up, and tell them they can do that too if they work hard enough. Help our girls believe, and let’s see what this next generation of girls can do when they become powerful women.