Please tell us a little bit about yourself. 


My name is Tara Leithead. For as long as I can remember, I have been very active and involved in sports since I was little girl. I loved soccer growing up. My parents were my coaches in house league soccer and I grew up with an amazing group of girls who together, we joined rep soccer and started a new club called West Toronto. It was when I was 12, that I found volleyball, and played two rep sports until I was in grade 11, when I made the choice to invest more of my time in volleyball.


I was fortunate to be recruited to play volleyball at a University level. I have just completed my last year of Varsity Volleyball this past year. It was an amazing experience I will never forget. I have met lots of incredible people and have made lifelong friends through it all. Being a part of a Varsity sport played a big role in helping me grow as a person. I developed valuable skills such as teamwork, effective communication, conflict resolution skills, time management and the ability to be resilient no matter what obstacles were thrown my way.


As for my education, in June of 2021 I will graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and a Bachelors of Education. I have had the privilege of having opportunities working within different schools and agencies which have helped my overall experience.


Throughout my time at York I have earned:

  • U-Sports All- Academic Canadian (2016-2020)
  • Mary Lyons Award Winner (2017-2020)
  • Winner of the Sport Council Award (2019)
  • Winner of the Bryce. M Taylor Award and the Lions Legacy Award (2020)
    • Summary: student-athletes who have, throughout their undergraduate years, have made outstanding contributions to varsity sport at York University. Leadership, dedication, enthusiasm and participation in all aspects of varsity sport will be considered qualifications for this award.


Overall, one of my greatest passions is being involved within a community. From my second year and onwards I was very passionate to get involved within the York Athletic community. By the end of my 5th

year, I got the honour to experience it all by being a mentor for incoming athletes, working at the front desk as a client services representative at York’s athletic facility and being the President of our York Sport Council, working closely with a group of dedicated athletes who are working towards creating change within our community and the greater Toronto area.


What is your routine to prepare for a competition?   


One of the commitments our team made to each other is that for the last 30 minutes before we needed to go upstairs to the gym to start warm-up we would be attentive to each other. That meant, no phones and no distractions. We would listen to music together, dance together and together we reviewed our game plan and our objectives for what we wanted to achieve for the game.


I believe this time with my team was very valuable, and something that I thought brought together cohesion and unity for our upcoming match.


Individually, I just knew I always had to have a granny smith apple and a granola bar before!


How do you best support your teammates? 


It is important to be there for your teammates on the court whether that be during competition or practice, but it is also important to recognize what your teammates need outside of sport. There are so many external factors that play a huge role on how we perform, how we feel whether it is emotionally, physically and mentally and how that impacts how we interact with one another. Some days are easier than others. I think as a teammate you are also a friend, a partner, a sister, someone who will be there no matter what. I think you need to find balance as a teammate. You need to look after yourself but in moments where you can lend a helping hand and reach out you need to do that. You do not know what everyone is going through.


Secondly, I think purposeful communication is critical to the development of a good partnership between you and your teammates. Many of us as athletes aim for their own level of perfection, and although we might have a larger team goal, we might not always be on board individually on how to get there. It is important that during those times of difficulty, that you all sit down together and find a way to be on the same page as best as possible. Being a part of a team is a blessing, but it definitely can pose its challenges at times. It is important that communication meets the needs of everyone as best as possible. This will also translate into better trust and support for one another.


What advice do you have for parents, coaches or sport administrators to encourage or improve sport for females? 


My advice that I would give parents, coaches and sport administrators is to always create the opportunity for females to play sports. I was a part of a volleyball club that was at the time, centered on females only. There were no boys’ teams and I think that ultimately allowed strength and conditioning coaches and our team coaches to fully become invested and to understand what it is that females needed in order to succeed in sport. The way we learn and adapt to sport, conditioning, strength, our nutrition, and our mental game is different than that of a male. I think overall it is important that if you have a passion to coach young girls in sport, make sure that you do so! If you are an aspiring coach or a retired athlete who has a passion to inspire and motivate young girls to pursue sport, become a coach! Sport helped shaped me to become a stronger and more confident young women and that is also due to all the wonderful and passionate coaches I have had in my life!!


This past year, York put on its first ever Leadhers day. The day targeted bringing in young girls from schools within the surrounding area of the York region to participate with three varsity female teams here at York. The girls participated in a variety of activities whether it be through general games or through drills of a particular sport. It was a terrific day! We were able to celebrate females coming together and staying active. We got to create a space that was safe, welcoming and encouraging that allowed young girls to be able to express and find their passion for sport or even to be active! I do hope this is something that will continue in the future! This is just one example of providing the opportunity for females to partake in sport!


What is a quote that motivates you? 


One of my coaches at University said this quote to our team at one practice and it has stuck with me ever since. It is something that I use not only to motivate me through sport but in other areas of my life. The meaning behind this quote is how you do the smaller things in life will amount to all the bigger things in the end. Focus on the achievable goals and the goal you have always dreamed of will be in reach.


“How you do anything, is how you do everything.” By: T. Harv Eker


  Instagram: @taraoksana14