WEEK #32: Olivia Reshmi Ghosh-Swaby


Please tell us a little bit about yourself.


I am a student-athlete from Mississauga, ON who plays big and strives for power and explosiveness in any sport. My first sport at a young age was competitive swimming, starting when I was 6 with the Brampton Cobras and a number of championships and first-place finishes in butterfly and freestyle. I moved to Mississauga and found new opportunities for sport. Persistent, I tried out for every sport in middle school, making every team. Some of my best included field hockey, flag football, and track and field. My real love was volleyball and after being cut from the first junior team tryout in grade 6 and oblivious to the concepts of cuts, I still attended the second tryout and made the team as one of the two younger athletes. With that, I played club for 6 years with one of the best teams in Canada, Pakmen Volleyball, and continued with the Junior Varsity Program at Western University for a number of years. During high school, I was an OFSSAA track athlete and hurdler, but unfortunately tore my ACL which resulted in taking a step back from hurdling and continued as a sprinter with some success. Moreover, flag football continued with me from middle school to high school, with a top program in the Region of Peel and coached by my high school mentor and Phys. Ed. teacher. This eventually set up my passion for competitive women’s football opportunities at the university level. I was one of the few female athletes who participated in weight-lifting courses in high school. This carried with me into university, and now I am an avid lifter 5-6 times a week to train for

competitive sports. I spent hours volunteering and supporting the community especially coaching young female athletes and enjoyed drawing and painting. I was named athlete of the year during my junior and student year, elected as class valedictorian, and awarded the leadership award for both student council and athletics.


To lead through sport, I put myself in a position academically to succeed (95% average) and this is why I take pride in being a student-athlete. I selected Western University in London ON, not for sports, but on a full national scholarship based on my academic merit, and leadership and community involvement. This allowed me to pursue a high-level post-secondary education while also playing sport. I balanced both junior varsity volleyball and women’s football throughout my undergraduate career and began focusing on creating football opportunities for women across universities in Ontario. I am currently a quarterback for WesternU Women’s Football Team and a qb/reciever in the Touch football Canada league. I have a number of team wins, including an 18-0 season and 3 tournament titles in 2019 with Western and a silver medal finish at the touch football national championship in 2018. As I moved into a direct Ph.D. in neuroscience also on scholarship, I began re-evaluating how we can improve the football experience for female student-athletes. I created and led the formation of the Ontario Women’s Intercollegiate Football Association (OWIFA) in 2018 which oversees women’s football at 10 universities including Windsor, Western, Guelph, Waterloo, McMaster, Laurier, Toronto, York, and Ontario Tech. The league has over 300 athletes and 50+ coaches competing and creating opportunities for women in sport.

What qualities of a leader do you appreciate most? Why?


A leader who genuinely has the interests of those they are supporting and leading. Meaning that they are just as invested and practice what they preach. For example, when coached by a former athlete who is just as active in their sport and participates in practice motivates those around them. A leader is someone who communicates well and is clear and articulate. These qualities are a great way to engage those who want to listen and lead by example.


What are ways you demonstrate being an inclusive and supportive teammate or ally?


I am a vocal person and constantly cheering on my teammates. Just hearing words of encouragement from the sideline boosts athlete morale. Moreover, I try to create more opportunities for my student-athletes. One large barrier to sport is cost, as the Team President of the football team at Western, I secured over $8,000 in sponsorship money to keep team fees low and allow as many athletes their right to play. This showed that I am not just an ally but ensuring inclusivity. Additionally, team events that bring athletes and subsequently, a new family of friends together is a big component I love to support to build team cohesiveness and relationships between individuals.


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


For parents, it’s important to support and encourage participation in sport and sign your daughter up for sports camps or teams. The value of well-being and physical health that comes from being active supports females in all components in life including building life skills, dedication, and leadership qualities which translate to other aspects including academics. Coaches should not only train for the sport but provide female athletes the tools they need to sustain physical activity and training (weight lifting, running, aerobics, etc) that they can continue on their own following a sports career. Sports administrators really need to show they value female athletes by acknowledging them and reducing barriers to sport as well as finding additionally sporting opportunities to pursue. For example, university football for women is not where it ends, there are competitive leagues that continue beyond and ensuring athletes know these exist will help continue participation in sport.


What is a song that motivates you?


Dedication or Grinding All My Life by Nipsey Hussle


Instagram: @o.goshh