I grew up in a household with two sisters, Leah and Marla. Our parents taught us to believe that anything is possible. It never crossed my mind as a child that being female would ever hold me back or limit me from doing whatever it was that I dreamed. I want that to be true for the girls and women of the future.
In my dream about going to the Olympics, I did not know what I know now. I did not know that women’s rowing was not an Olympic event until 1976 and was a modified distance until 1988. I did not know that although it was a feasible dream for my future, it wasn’t for many women before me.
It is important to recognize where we came from, so we can recognize the progress we have made, but there is still more progress to be made. The majority of the leaders of our high performance rowing team and coaching system are men and I believe we need a system that encourages the development of female leaders in the sport. This requires a shift in thinking and an initiation by the current leaders of our sport organizations. The #LevelTheField campaign is helping to introduce this conversation.
My first rowing coach, Allison Ray, was pivotal to my self-belief and understanding of myself as a young woman early on in my rowing career. She was not only instrumental to my early development, but I also got tips from her and kept in touch with her right up to my Olympic race in London 2012. I truly believe I benefited from having a female role model and leader on my athletic journey. Unfortunately, she was only one of few high performance female coaches in Canada. This is not acceptable.
Sport not only builds great athletes, but they can also unite communities and affect social change. Athletes lead in fair play, respecting others, and giving back. Let’s forge the way in sport and show our communities and society that we will no longer accept barriers for women and girls!