Week 46: Gabriela Estrada
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a Canadian born to Guatemalan parents who is a huge advocate for getting others to be physically active, especially young girls and women. Growing up, I played soccer, did dance, field hockey, track and field, and cross country. In my adult years, I zoned in on coaching more than playing and focused on soccer and overall physical activity and movement. My favorite ways to move are definitely running, fitness, obstacle course races, and, of course, soccer. Ultimate frisbee is slowly becoming one of my new favorites, but definitely need more practice! I coach one of our Intramural Women’s soccer teams at UofT Scarborough, run a free girls-only soccer program for girls in Scarborough, am in the processing of creating a non-profit that gets more women and girls to be physical active in the Eastern GTA, and have done work/am working with a variety of organizations that look to provide opportunities to get others to be physically active and empower youth. These organizations include Fast and Female, Motivate Canada, FitSpirit, MLSE Launchpad, UofT Scarborough Athletics & Recreation, the Boys and Girls Club of East Scarborough, and others. I am currently going into my first year of my Master’s program at UofT, where I will be completing a Master of Exercise Science in the Physical Cultural Steam with my work focusing on the barriers that racialized female youth face in physical activity, sport and recreation.
How has sport helped you develop skills for your work today?
Sport has literally made me into the person that I am today – from my personality to my passions to even my future career choice and education. I went into my undergrad thinking that I wanted to be a socio-cultural anthropologist, then a linguist, and then I joined our school soccer team and got involved with athletics. So many individuals don’t recognize or realize the potential that sport has on its participants to create positive change and build transferable life skills: from communication to leadership, grit, perseverance, resiliency, self-confidence and more, these are things that are developed on and off the field of play in sport. Sport made me strong in moments where I thought I was weak, allowed me to recognize my potential, had me wanted to do good in the world and show others what sport can do for you. It helped with the development and upholding my mental health, physical health, and social health.
How has sport helped you be a better leader?
I believe that sport has helped me become a better leader as it has created opportunities for me to do so, alongside providing me with role models to look up to. In sport, you often times find yourself in leadership positions within your team while on and off the field of play: moments where you have an idea, need to speak up, be a leader by example, etc.; and then there are moments where you are called upon to leader as a coach, a facilitator, a guest speaker, etc. You learn what you want to see from leaders and then work to become that leader yourself: to be inclusive, welcoming, a great communicator, a team player, a source of knowledge, etc. Especially in a time like the one we are in now, where women in sport are becoming more known in the media, we need to work to continue to be leaders and role models for all the young girls and women around us.
Why did you continue to stay involved in sport? How has sport continued to have a positive impact on you?
I continued to stay in sport because in so many ways I needed it, I loved it, and in all honestly, it saved me. In the hardest moments of my life where my mental health was low and the stresses of life were too much, sport and physical activity were always there. A walk with the dog, a run around the block, a gym session, a practice with my team – these were the things I looked forward to the most. I stayed in sport both for myself and for others; you can’t talk the talk if you don’t walk the walk. I want to be able to inspire others, educate them, and provide opportunities for them to get involved in sport – especially girls and women, and to be able to do that, I need to be in sport as well; to understand what’s going on, to see the game, feel the movement, etc. It hasn’t always been easy, that’s for sure: there have been instances of frustration and tension between opponents, team mates, coaching staff and, of course, your biggest critic: yourself. But to overcome these, to succeed, to be able to do these things for yourself and others – it is incredible. Sport has a place for everyone, regardless of your skill level; and it isn’t about being the best of the best, but doing the best that you can and loving both the game and yourself for that.