Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Ariel. I am 10 years old and in grade 5. I have a little brother name Nicholas. He is awesome. I love hanging out with him. When I am not training in martial arts, I like to do some skateboarding, biking and ride on huge rollercoasters, anything high adrenaline. I hope to have a motorcycle one day or a sports car, but my mom doesn’t want me to have one. Once in while though, I like to just snuggle up and read a book about ancient myths and also about magic, watch action movies with chocolate snacks or go for walks with friends.
I started asking my parents to do martial arts since I was 2 years old. My parents wanted me to try other things as well, so I did ballet and soccer, but I never really loved any of it, ballet especially (tutus are not my thing). Finally, my parents signed me up at DeSantos Premier Martial Arts when I was 4 years old and since then, I feel like I found my home. Kwan Jang Nim (Veronica DeSantos) is a great leader and person and noticed my passion. She encouraged me to join the demo team and the tournament team. She still encourages me every day to follow my dream and that nothing is out of reach if I work hard enough for it. I am confident she will always be beside me, helping every step of the way.
With the demo team, I have performed at lots of events, like the Globe Trotters, Toronto FC and for a video for “Butterfly Knife” from Patrick de Belen. He chose an all-girl martial artists cast! It was an awesome experience, seeing all those strong girls and women doing what I love. I have competed at provincial level in person, and international virtually during the pandemic. I hope to qualify to participate in the OWG in March and will try out to make the Canadian Junior team for the WAKO world championship this summer. I am competitive so all these tournaments drive me to do better, to train harder. My teammates are like a second family and I also love training with them. It does not feel like work because they make it so fun.
What do you take pride in as an athlete?
As an athlete I take pride in always showing up at 100%. No matter what happens, I always know I did my best and that is all I can do. I leave everything on the mat and continue to push myself to get better.
I pride myself in not giving up when I lose or slacking off when I win. Even though Martial Arts is often a solo sport, I train with a great group of people and I pride myself in being there for my teammates and coaches and learning from them and accepting feedback even if it is not to my liking because not everything is.
I know I could never do what I do alone, I need and appreciate my coaches, friends, teammates, family. Without them and without my sport, I wouldn’t be who I am.
What does leadership mean to you? How do you apply it?
To me leadership does not mean to be the boss. For me leadership means being able to teach others and help them grow, to have others trust that you can lead them where they
need to go. When I help teach younger students, I like to be there for them, not just to correct their technique but to listen and support them with anything else as well like their days at school. It is not about making them the best athlete but helping them reach their potential in a fun and supportive environment.
What advice do you have for parents, coaches or sport administrators to improve inclusion in sport?
I am lucky to be training in a club led by women that is very inclusive of everyone regardless of gender, race, culture, and disability. I think it is why it feels like a second family. Somewhere I love going to and where we can all be ourselves.
I think it is important for coaches and parents to give the same respect and opportunities to everyone and call out anyone that bullies or thinks that people should not be equal. They should also make sure kids are not put in situations where they choose one teammate over the other because the last ones chosen always may not feel as included or appreciated and might think they’re not good enough.
I think the best rule that was taught to me was treat others the way you want to be treated and if we all did that then the world of sport and the world in general would be a better place.
5 words that best describe me are: