Please tell us a little bit about yourself.


My name’s Emily, I’m a recent graduate of Western University’s finance program, born and raised Calgarian, but spent four years in London, Ontario trying to figure out where my life would go after my degree was finished. I never expected it to be a pandemic, but I’m doing my best to make the most of it. My true passion is in the world of sports, which I’ve been connected to since I was very young. I’ve been playing ringette for 15 years now, as my primary athletic outlet. I’ve been to multiple nationals and have won bronze and silver medals, was given the Individual Achievement Award by the Canadian Ringette Championships the first time I attended, I’ve captained Team Alberta, and received the Western Canadian Ringette Championships Legacy Scholarship. I’ve also played on the Western varsity team and received the Athletic Scholar Award for academic and athletic achievement with the university. 


Outside of playing sports, while I was at Western I volunteered with the live sports broadcasting team at Radio Western. I was part of the very first All-Women’s Broadcast, where I colour commentated a Western Mustang’s women’s hockey game with an entire crew of women (including producer, social media management, and photography) — a first in Canadian history. For my efforts throughout the season, I was awarded the Elliotte Friedman Most Promising Volunteer Award from the station. I did play-by-play and colour commentary for men’s and women’s hockey, produced articles and interviews of a variety of university sports, and covered the first women’s hockey Rivalry Series between Team Canada and Team USA during their three game series across North America. 


With my passion for furthering women’s sports and newfound quarantine time, I recently created a podcast called ‘Even Strength’, in order to highlight and celebrate stories and insights of people involved in women’s athletics. You can find it on Spotify and Apple Podcasts by searching the name. I also love to take advantage of my “backyard” by hiking and exploring in the Rockies and I climb at local gyms. I’ve also played box lacrosse as a goaltender for six years, played badminton in junior high for three years, and coached U9 and U14AA ringette for three years. 


What would tell a girl who is thinking of dropping out of sport?

I think this can be a tricky question and situation, because there’s so many reasons why girls decide to drop out of sports, especially at the staggering rates we’re seeing in adolescence specifically. In Canada, barriers like negative body image, low confidence, and feeling unwelcome in sport are the prevailing factors in why young girls leave sports. Oftentimes, it’s difficult to even have girls start to become involved in sport in the first place. We’re all very aware that sport is incredibly important to personal development by providing opportunities to improve physical health, having a healthy outlet and social connections, and developing cognitive and physical skills, among many reasons. 


So with all of this in mind, I would ask the girl why she is thinking about dropping out and then try to identify what about sport brings her joy and encourage her to follow that. With it being such a serious consideration, it’s also important to reach out to her support network to have them encourage her to stay; people like her parents, her coaches, and even her siblings can make a massive difference in positively influencing her to continue participating. I make my best effort to try and keep girls in sport and encourage them to find something they love that’s physically active. Try new things, bring your friends along, have fun! It doesn’t have to be competitive either, find your community and stick to it. It’s so worth it in the long run.

What do you do to give back to your sport community? Why is it important?


I’ve always been the kind of person that likes to go above just participating in something. If I have skills and knowledge, I want to be able to use them to further the communities around me. If I have even a shred of confidence, I like to channel that somewhere to encourage others to gain that confidence too. It has to start somewhere and if that somewhere is me, then I embrace it and do the best I can with the people around me. As someone who has the privileges in sport like I have, the privilege to get a university education, the privilege to speak and likely be heard, I don’t take that lightly or passively. 


I want girls and women to see their potential, no matter who they are. I want them to know and understand that they too have power, and that when they enter a space like sports, they are allowed and encouraged to be there and to succeed — whatever that means to them. I give back because I know what it’s like to be a female athlete, to not always be taken seriously, to have to prove yourself every single day, and I want to flip the narrative and celebrate the uniquely female experiences of sport and the positivity active living can bring to a life. Sport is so important to who I am, it’s hard to not share that passion with others. 

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


For parents, I would recommend letting your daughter decide what she wants to play, get her to try new things, and encourage her to be involved in more than one sport. Be a positive role model, provide positive reinforcement, advocate for your daughter and her sport, and be vocal about how proud of her you are. You are statistically the most influential people when it comes to encouraging your young girl in sport, so don’t take this role lightly and help her navigate the tough moments because they will come. Keep her active and keep her in the games that she loves.


For coaches, familiarize yourself in what it takes to be a coach for girls. Do some research, do some reading, go above and beyond your mandatory coaching sessions and certifications. Listen to your athletes and be attentive to the dynamics on your team. Have zero tolerance for negativity, discrimination, or bullying; have clear expectations and understand why girls drop out of sport at a significantly higher rate than boys. You have such an important role in a young girl’s life, a lot of how you conduct yourself and your team can be the reason why she continues to play or doesn’t. Advocate for the sport you coach, encourage media coverage of women’s sport, and be a role model for them too. 


For sports administrators, have clear policies on conduct, injuries, and like coaches, understand where the gaps are for girls in sport and pay special attention to how you can conduct your organization to close these gaps. Advocate. Be inclusive and understand who is less likely to participate in sports and go out of your way to help them overcome their barriers in order to participate (lower income families, Indigenous girls, girls with disabilities, girls with parents who don’t participate in sport, etc.). Establish targets to advance your sport and work to meet or exceed them. Share what you know with other organizations so you can work together to advance female athletics. Encourage women to become head coaches, assistant coaches, trainers, administration, etc. — whatever the role is, ensure that your hiring practices are equitable and make an effort to recruit talent fairly. 


There’s a lot to do and think about when it comes to supporting female sports, and many people occupy multiple roles when it comes to their kid’s sports, which can take up a lot of time and energy. But if done in a way that addresses the specific needs of girls in sport, that energy and time becomes more efficient, productive, and helpful. If anything, understand that there is a reason why 1 in 3 adolescent girls drop out of sport in Canada and only 1 in 10 boys do. If you’re involved in women’s athletics in any way, know you have influence and use that power to make the experience better for everyone. Equity benefits us all, regardless of gender. 


What is a quote that motivates you?


“People would say, ‘Girls don’t play hockey. Girls don’t skate.’ I would say, ‘Watch this.’”

– Hayley Wickenheiser