I have been playing sports for most of my life now and there are two things I have learned: If you work hard, the results will come and just as importantly, you can’t do it alone. Growing up with a disability was not easy and yes, it got easier to manage because I grew through experience. Still, there have been and continue to be barriers that have given me the choice of either giving up or speaking up.
Being a sports broadcaster and advocate for marginalized groups, you would not think that a few years ago I was a quiet, withdrawn individual who hadn’t realized the power of my own voice. In high school, I can remember taking part in a competition that in the past, athletes who had done well had their photo put up in the high school for current and future generations to see. Winning three medals at the event, I came back to my hometown and was proud to be able to share that wall of honor with the rest of the athletes. To this day I still haven’t gotten a clear answer as to why my picture isn’t up there, but that was my first taste of ableism both in day-to-day society and directly in sports. I was being shown and told, “You’re different, you don’t belong”. As a young teenager, I let it affect me in a way that kept me quiet and made me feel that putting up a fight wouldn’t change anything. I was wrong. Little did I know that my childhood dream would unravel as the Canadian Women’s Para Hockey Team program was created.
Playing hockey for Team Canada?! Talk about your Canadian dreams coming true! I had played so many sports growing up including division one collegiate wheelchair basketball, but para hockey was my first sport and the one I continue to fall in love with each season. 2014 was my rookie year on the Canadian Women’s Para Hockey Team. I truly felt like I was in a space that was perfect for me. The staff, athletes and culture of women’s para hockey were inclusive, welcoming, and diverse and to this day continue to push for change in hockey. As much as we would like to say its true, hockey hasn’t been the most welcoming and safe of sports for athletes of marginalized groups but being a part of the National Team has given me my voice and shown me that by being your true authentic self, speaking up for change and doing it together can completely change the way the world sees sport. Para hockey has shown me that it might take longer than you thought it would, but there are spaces and groups of people who will not only welcome you but day in and day out show you that you belong. I take pride in being an advocate and pushing for more representation in hockey. Outside of hockey, I am on athlete boards and part of movements that are working to make hockey a safer and more inclusive space because, at the end of the day, we can’t create change alone, it takes a village and every one of our voices matter.
Speak up, even if your voice shakes.
Over the last 8 years of not only representing Team Canada as an athlete but helping grow the game internationally, I’ve had the opportunity to experience a lot of “firsts”. This past summer was the first-ever women’s para hockey World Challenge which is the first brick on the path to the first-ever women’s para hockey Paralympic Games tournament, medals, and champion. It has taken every member of the organization pushing for more support and representation for our sport and it continues to pay off for future generations. I not only want to leave an impact on the team in its success, I want to leave a legacy of pushing for something that has never been done before in our sport. Going after something that once was impossible gives you the ability to create your own destiny. Take up space. Be vulnerable. Own your power. There is no one out there like you and that is your tool to create your own magic.