What a year to be a sports fan in Toronto! We can’t recall a time this city was as riveted to its teams and athletes. We shared the heartbreak of the Leafs’ playoff run and TFC’s MLS final while we celebrated Bianca Andreescu’s shining breakout. And who can forget over a million people standing together to celebrate the Raptors. If we ever doubted that sport can unify us, surely 2019 put that idea to rest.
The ability of sport to bring people together isn’t limited to world champions or Olympic Games; it happens every single day all around us. Forget about the big parades and think about those running groups, hockey clinics, yoga retreats and countless other ways we unite through sport in our communities. Here in Toronto, for example, the Hijabi Ballers brings Muslim girls and women together to embrace their athleticism, and Collingwood native, Jessica Woolsey organizes snowboarding and wakeboarding events to introduce women to these activities.
What’s remarkable is that it’s not just the players or participants who come together: it’s also coaches, convenors, volunteers, parents and officials sharing an experience and a passion and building life-long friendships in the process. For example twin Courtney Ganz and Cassidy Wade sisters who have been refereeing minor hockey for years in the GTA, and Christina D’Ambrogio, who coaches U10 girls for the Etobicoke Minor Ball Hockey League, and Amanda Balson, who is breaking down barriers on the stock car racing circuit.
This is why we need to talk a lot more than we do about sports. Sure, there are dozens of channels and thousands of blogs and podcasts about sports, but we need to look beyond who won and who lost and what they got paid. A much more interesting conversation is around why they got involved in the first place, and what they can do when they’re inspired, informed and connected.
The benefit of sport is about more than the tiny fraction of players who make it to the top of their game, it’s also about how we build healthy bodies and healthy, diverse, inclusive communities. Studies show that when women are active, their children are far more likely to participate in a sport, so it makes sense that we should be talking about how we can inspire women of all ages and backgrounds and abilities to come together. A great example is Team Wickenheisers, a group of female parahockey players of all ages and physical abilities who’ve met for the last four years in Brampton to play in the Cruisers Sports Cruisers Cup.
It’s encouraging to see that many businesses are beginning to see the powerful unifying possibilities of women and girls in sports. CrossFit Aurora Central, for example, organizes an annual Mother’s Day event, among other activities, and Toronto-based She’s4Sports teamed up with Ryerson University to shine a light on the need for gender diversity in sport.
These are just a few of the inspiring stories right in our own backyard that illustrate the importance of sport in our communities. We started SeeWhatSheCanDo because we wanted to create a place where active women could be celebrated. We’re so proud of our vibrant community where everyone can come to share their stories, get inspired, invite new friends into their activities and find their own way to experience our collective love of sport.
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We certainly hope you will join the conversation at SeeWhatSheCanDo. We want to help women and their supporters find the activities and communities that empower them to reach their full potential in sport. We also invite local and national businesses who are interested in serving active women to partner with us and together build a future for sport that is fully equitable, accessible, and diverse.
Beyond our community, we hope you will include conversations about sport at your own dinner table, when you’re out with friends or colleagues, at your family holiday gatherings and sharing ideas on your social media pages.
The more we can explore and celebrate the unity and human spirit in sport, the more we can influence the broader discussions around building a healthy, inclusive society.
By Tina Finelli and Caroline Wiley, founders, www.SeeWhatSheCanDo.com