Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in Durham Region playing volleyball and softball. I made the decision at 16 to play only softball. Not because I liked it better or was better at it (which I was), but because my coach in my 13 to 15s years drove me to loathe practice and ultimately took the fun out of the sport. Going to softball, where my mom became one of my coaches alongside some other dedicated parents, I learned the power of good coaching and connection. I watched my mom support girls not only in their sport but in their home lives and mental health as they, like many teenage girls struggled to find their way. I played both volleyball and softball all through high school and headed off to University where I returned to volleyball and coached and played alongside young women in the very competitive intra-campus program at the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus. This connection to a team made coming to school easier, which for me, was challenging at times. I continued to play recreationally and coach casually through U of T’s junior blues program. In 2011, I moved to California with my partner and jumped headfirst into coaching. I lead a high-performing junior varsity program and became certified through USAV. I did every last training that was available until we moved back in 2013. I am grateful that at this time, I was introduced to Leaside Volleyball and became an assistant coach to a 13U team. I never looked back. I have coached every season, both in head and assistant roles on girls’ team’s ages 13 – 16. Through these experiences, I came to understand the barriers in sports for girls and became more dedicated to bringing great sports experiences to female athletes and have supported younger female coaches in our club to gain confidence in their roles. In 2017 I worked with the HPC regional program and in 2018 I was awarded the Female Development Coach of the year. In 2022, I was elected as President of the Ontario Volleyball Association and this summer I will be joining the coaching staff of Team Ontario.
In all of my roles, my main focus is to provide supportive, safe, competitive training environments for athletes. This is reflected in my 9-5 work, where I run a charity called VIBE Arts, which has a similar mission but for local emerging artists. If we create these environments, the talents and abilities of these young people will emerge, as it’s not a lack of talent in the community that prevents people from thriving, it’s the barriers that they face.
What is an issue or topic you are passionate about or would like to see changed?
I think that women in sports need to continue to lift each other up. It is essential that any young woman who wants to be part of sport has the opportunity, whether that’s in the competitive realm, recreationally or through coaching or officiating. There is a space for everyone. I feel strongly about helping youth find a space and role that is best for them. The community that sport creates cannot be matched. The number of strong incredible women I have had the honour of meeting, coaching alongside and training has been one of the most powerful experiences in my life. It’s provided me the confidence to seek out further leadership roles and want to provide nurturing spaces to build new networks for my athletes. The ability to be a strong, dependable adult in my athletes’ lives has been important to me. Young women are faced with so many messages of people telling them they aren’t enough, I want to be the voice in their life that tells them they are. I want to lead by example that you can create this caring supportive environment while still remaining competitive.
What specific strategies would you like to see parents, coaches, or sport administrators do to improve diversity in sport or progress your cause?
Organizations need to continue to prioritize the development of diverse leaders. The experience approach to finding good coaches and leaders is no longer good enough as it is a self-fulfilling cycle that keeps people out of leadership roles. How is experience gained if opportunities are never offered? I would love to see clubs and organizations create meaningful intentional pathways for diversity in sport and actively remove the gatekeepers to opportunities that could diversify sport. We know there is no lack of skill or knowledge in the community, just a lack of opportunities for those who are not connected.
What is your favourite leadership quote?
“Leadership is a series of behaviours, rather than a role for heroes.” – Margaret J. Wheatley
Stacey Abrams – Lead from the Outside
Although not about sport. The number of stories she has about being an outsider and underestimated and having to make other people uncomfortable to achieve her goals has been inspiring for me in my role. It’s been motivational as I emerge as a leader in volleyball as a 5’3 female non-player amongst 6’5 men who have lengthy volleyball CVs.