Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Samantha Stewart is a Canadian National Team Wrestler in the Women’s 53kg division. She is an 11x National Medalist, 2x World University Medalist, Pan-American Champion, Rio 2016 Olympic alternate, and the Canadian Wrestling Trials champion and 53kg representative looking to qualify for Tokyo 2021. Off the mats, Samantha graduated with her Masters of Education in Counselling from the University of New Brunswick and is now a Licensed Counselling Therapist (LCT-C) with the College of Counselling Therapists of New Brunswick (CCTNB). Samantha is also very active in giving back to the sport community as an Athlete Ambassador with the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame and KidSport NB. It is important to her to be a visible role model for New Brunswick youth and the next generation of female athletes. She also volunteers as a R.E.A.L. Role Model with the non-profit organization Fast and Female to help keep girls healthy and active in sports because it sets them up to succeed and lead in life beyond sports. Samantha is also an RBC Olympian and delivers motivational talks spreading the Olympic messages of teamwork, excellence, commitment, and leadership to communities across New Brunswick and Atlantic Canada. She is passionate about helping others discover their purpose, achieve their aspirations, and reach their potential combining her academic background in career development and mental health with her love, dedication to, and knowledge of elite sport in Canada. You can read more about me and my journey on my website at SamanthaStewart.ca/blog.
How did sport inspire the work you do today?
I’ve been involved in sport since I was a little girl and as I got older, I knew that I wanted to give back to the athletic community in some capacity when I retired as an athlete. I developed an interest in mental performance and chose to pursue post-secondary education in sport psychology. It was then that I discovered that the holistic development of an athlete is not necessarily a shared objective in applied sport and exercise psychology programs that are housed in kinesiology/sport science/human kinetics programs in Canadian universities. However, there are over two decades worth of research demonstrating that athletes are just as vulnerable as non-athletes, if not more so, to problems such as anxiety, anger, depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, emotional abuse, and/or sexual trauma
and these problems can have substantial effects not only on their sport performance but also their well-being. Therefore, I chose to pursue a Masters degree in Counselling and to become a Licensed Counselling Therapist, where I could work with athletes not only on their mental performance for their sport but also their holistic development as a person with the necessary background to work with any mental health issues that may arise as well.
What do you take pride in as an athlete?
As an athlete I take pride in not only who I am when I step on the mat as a fierce competitor, but the person I am when I step off it as an advocate of athlete mental health and role model for women and girls in sport. Giving back to the community, helping inspire kids to pursue their dreams, and changing the sporting landscape for the better are all very important to me.
What advice do you have for parents, coaches or sport administrators to improve inclusion in sport?
The advice I have for parents to improve inclusion is to make women’s sport more visible for their kids, both their daughters and their sons. We need to normalize women in sport and female athletes in our society to begin changing the narrative on things like airtime and media representation of women’s sport, pay equity, and equal opportunity. It’s hard to be what you can’t see and having role models that are visible for young women and girls, like I had when I was just starting out in the sport of wrestling, provides a visible pathway to pursue for aspiring female athletes. But we also need our men and boys to step up as our allies and support those things as well.
5 words that best describe me are:
FOODIE | OTAKU | PERSISTENT | CAFFEINATED | GINGER