Are you an athlete that currently finds herself close to the end of her athletic post-secondary sports career and wondering what the possibilities are to have a professional sports career? Or, are you a high school student who just loves everything about sport, desires a future that revolves around sport but just not sure what that could mean?
If these questions and more are just the thoughts that are going through your mind currently, then plan to attend the inaugural Western University's "Stay In the Game: Pathways for Women in Sport" Virtual Conference. It's happening Saturday March 27th and features a powerhouse of panelists, breakout sessions and a keynote address from multiple Canadian Olympian Women's Ice Hockey player, Hockey Hall of Fame member and an Order of Hockey in Canada recipient Jayna Hefford that is certain to inspire and inform you in what a bright future in sport could look like.
SeeWhatSheCanDo is proud to be one of a number of inaugural sponsors to provide financial support for this important and insightful virtual event.
For Committee Chair and Head Track & Field Coach at Western University Vickie Croley, the idea to host an event to bring together women who have succeeded in a variety of post-secondary professional roles in sport including coaching, business, advocacy, and the academic world actually came to her as she stood in front of a crowd of coaches while addressing the issue of why there was still very much a need for more female coaches. At the time, and, as Vickie shared,
"I had a bit of an epiphany where I thought I'm talking to the wrong audience. Instead of speaking to women who have already made the decision to coach we should be recruiting/speaking to women who are still athletes competing".
Once Vickie fully appreciated who her actual audience should be to have a definitive impact on growing the number of female coaches, she also came to realize the even "greater value that sports brings to student athletes once they've graduated from university sport". From there, she connected with committee member Alison Doherty, a Professor with the Sport Management program in the School of Kinesiology, Faculty of Health Sciences at Western University, and they determined together other professional areas of sport that women were not well represented. They also recognized the importance of including high school athletes in the scope of their conference and the role mentorship plays in influencing the choices of high school athletes. Again, Vickie's words say it best.
"We decided to bring in speakers to present on topics that our audience could definitely learn from as they navigate how to stay involved in sport. Almost all of our speakers and panellists are former university/college student-athletes who have stayed involved in sport in some way. What better way than to have all of these role models involved in recruiting!"
The Conference Committee itself brings together a number of women who are affiliated with Western University. They include:
Jayna Hefford - Operations Consultant - PWHPA
Jayna is one of the most decorated Canadian Olympians of all-time and won multiple medals at the Winter Olympics and IIHF World Women's Championships as well as titles in the National Women's Hockey League and Canadian Women's Hockey League. She helped Canada win four-straight Olympic gold medals from 2002 to 2014 and famously scored the gold-medal winning goal at the 2002 Winter Olympics. At the professional club level across three leagues, she scored 439 goals in 418 competitive games including a CWHL record 44 goals in 2008-09.
She was selected as only the 6th female in history to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on June 26, 2018 and in 2019 she was named an Order of Hockey in Canada recipient. Raised in Kingston, Ontario – her childhood #15 jersey has been retired by the Kingston Minor Hockey Association and hangs from the rafters in all of their arenas.
Hefford served as Commissioner of the CWHL for the 2018-2019 season and is currently the leading Operations Consultant for the Professional Women's Hockey Players' Association (PWHPA).
In 2019, Hefford was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame and was the recipient of the Order of Hockey in Canada as well.
Eva Havaris - Sports Administrator
At Western University, Eva Havaris was part of the Mustangs women's soccer program from 2001-2003 where she helped lead the team to a silver medal at the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Championships in 2002. She was an All-Canadian standout and the Canada Interuniversity Sport (CIS) women's outstanding soccer player of the year in 2003. She is a two-time OUA MVP, a two-time CIS First-Team All-Canadian, the 2003 Western female academic All-Canadian athlete of the year, OUA Women of Influence Award Winner in 2003 and a Purple Blanket recipient.
After graduating from Western University with a Master of Arts, Sport Management, Havaris immediately continued to serve in sport both as a coach and administrator. She served two years as the head coach of women's soccer at Fanshawe College (2005-07) and then moved to the University of Toronto as their head coach of the varsity women's soccer program from 2008-2011.
Eva is currently the Executive Vice President, Business Operations and Strategy with York United FC of the Canadian Premier League. In this role, she oversees numerous portfolios and strategic initiatives that support the league's growth, operations, expansion, and its corporate partnerships division.
She is a member of the Board of Ringette Canada and the Chair of the Nominations Committee for Ontario Soccer.
Marty Deacon - Senator and Sport Board Member
Martha Deacon has vast expertise in the areas of education and sport. Holding a Masters of Education from Western University in London, Ontario, her career as an educator has spanned over 30 years. She's also held various roles in education including teacher, consultant, university instructor, principal, executive officer, and superintendent.
Ms. Deacon served as an apprentice coach for both the 1994 Commonwealth Games and the 1999 Pan American Games and was later named as Badminton team leader for the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games. She also served Team Canada at 16 Olympic, Commonwealth and Pan American Games. Marty served as Canada's Chef de Mission for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India. Ms. Deacon presently serves as a Director on the Canadian Olympic Committee and for Commonwealth Games Canada. She has held Executive Board roles with other organizations such as Badminton Canada, Pan American Sports. the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association, and the Ontario Educational Leadership Centre.
Marty was appointed by the Governor General and Prime Minister of Canada to be a Senator for Canada in February, 2018. She serves on the National Finance Committee and Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee. Marty is a Senator from Ontario representing the Region of Waterloo, the first Senator serving this region in 71 years.
Dr. Natascha Wesch - Mental Performance Consultant and Counsellor
Dr. Natascha Wesch is a Mental Performance Consultant and Counsellor who works directly with athletes and coaches on the mental and emotional aspects of sport to help enhance performance. Natascha is a former international level athlete and coach, having represented Rugby Canada in two World Cups and numerous international matches between 1992-2002. She also coached the Rugby Canada women's junior and senior programs from 2000-2009.
Natascha was a multi-sport varsity athlete competing in both rugby and hockey at Concordia University as an undergraduate student and at Western University as a graduate student. Natascha was the head coach of the Western Mustangs women's rugby program for 22 years, from 1994-2016, during which time the Mustangs were one of the leading rugby programs in the country winning several OUA championships and back-to-back National Championships in 2004 and 2005 . Although retired from high-performance sport, Natascha continues to stay active by participating in triathlons and adventure racing, playing squash and hockey, and coaching minor sport.
Natascha holds a PhD in Sport Psychology, a MA in Counselling Psychology, and a MSc in Exercise Biochemistry from Western University where she continues to teach in the Faculty of Health Sciences. Natascha also completed her post-doctoral studies at McMaster University in Health and Rehabilitation Psychology.
Ainka Jess - Sports Entrepreneur & Activist
Ainka Jess is a senior communicator and award-winning business woman. She is passionate about empowering women and diverse communities through sport.
In 2016 she combined her corporate communications background and drive to change sport media, to launch She's4Sports. The organization produces digital content and events to give women, girls and diverse people a larger voice in sport. She's4Sports represents a community of over 5000 women and men. The network hosted nine events and two digital series including Toronto's first all-female hockey panel and a virtual panel on anti-black racism in sport that was featured in the New York Times.
Ainka is also an avid speaker who addresses topics on public relations, entrepreneurship and sport. Her media features include CityNews, CBC Radio, Sportsnet.ca and SiriusXM. Outside of her work with She's4Sports, Ainka has provided strategic communications support to PwC, The City of Ottawa and BMO.
Ainka is a recipient of the WXN Canada's Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Awards. Ainka has a B.A. in English and Communication Arts from York University and a diploma in Broadcast Television from Seneca College
Shannon Kerwin - Professor of Organizational Behaviour
Shannon Kerwin teaches and conducts research in the areas of organizational behaviour and human resource management in sport.
Specifically, Shannon has looked at how personal and organizational values align to enhance important organizational outcomes, the role of conflict in the effectiveness of volunteer boards of directors, and how leadership is developed and fostered within the context of team/organizational culture.
Recently, she has been asked to explore the program effectiveness of a gender equity initiative for Canadian Women and Sport and is set to examine the HRM practices that support (or hinder) gender diversity in nonprofit sport organizations.
Alison Doherty - Professor of Sport Management
Dr. Alison Doherty is a Professor with the Sport Management program in the School of Kinesiology, Faculty of Health Sciences at Western University. She is also a volunteer Assistant Coach with the Western Mustangs Track & Field Team, a varsity program she has been involved with for most of the past 30 years. Alison was a two-time Canadian university champion in the high jump, Canadian champion in the heptathlon, and a seven-year member of the Canadian Track & Field Team.
Alison serves as Lead of the Sport and Social Impact Research Group (SSIRG) at Western, she is a board member of Canada's Sport Information Resource Centre (SIRC), and serves on the recently established Impact Research Committee for Canadian Women and Sport. In addition to her own coaching, Alison mentors apprentice coaches through the Coaches Association of Ontario's "Change the Game" program.
Lori Ewing - Journalist
Lori Ewing has become one of Canada's premier Olympic Games writers in her 19 years at The Canadian Press.
She's covered four summer Olympic Games and three winter Olympics, plus numerous Commonwealth and Pan American Games, eight world championships in figure skating and two in track and field, plus World Cups in women's soccer, basketball, skiing, bobsled and speedskating.
Lori has covered the Toronto Raptors for 18 years, including their historic NBA championship run last spring. Lori's coverage of the 2016 Rio Olympics and Paralympics earned her Sport Media Canada's sports Writer of the Year Award, as well as Canada's most influential woman in sports media presented by Canadian Women and Sport.
As an athlete, Lori ran for Simon Fraser University and still holds the school record in the 200 metres. She was a silver medallist in the 400 metres at the Canadian indoor championships.
Darda Sales - Former Paralympian & Volunteer Coach
A four-time Paralympian in two sports, a Gold and Silver medalist, world record holder and dual sport World Champion, Darda has dedicated her career to positively moving sports for individuals with a disability forward.
Staying active in sport as a swim coach, motivational speaker, and consultant to organizations looking to improve their parasports programs, Darda strives to remove barriers and raise awareness that sport truly is for everyone.
As a PhD candidate at Western University, her research looks at the lived experience of the parasport development pathway.
Alixandra Krahn - PhD Candidate & Assistant Coach
Alix has been actively participating in sport for most of her life as both an athlete and a coach. She was a multi-sport athlete in her teenage years, eventually leading her to pursue the sport of volleyball at the post-secondary level. In her final year of study as a student-athlete Alix published her work titled "Police record checks: Athlete protection or political smokescreen?" in a coaching magazine, setting her on an academic conquest to figure out what motivates sport coaches to do what they do. Admittedly, Alix was always skeptical of coaches and it was not until she started coaching herself that she learned to appreciate how difficult it was to be a coach.
The once student-athlete transitioned to a student-coach, coaching and pursing her passion for academics at the master's level. Her master's dissertation, which is summarized in Chapter 6 of the Routledge Handbook of Athlete Welfare published last month, focused on the power dynamics within the coach-athlete relationship. For Alix, this work represented the tip of the coaching iceberg that she has dedicated her academic career to understanding.
Alix continues to coach at the post-secondary level and is currently completing her PhD on Exploring the Work and Professionalization of University Sport Coaches. At the heart of her work, as both a coach and academic, is her passion for advancing women through sport into leadership positions. She is personally and professionally committed to challenging the structural barriers facing women in sport coaching and has dedicated her career to creating a sport community where everyone is empowered to become the best version of themselves.
Lee Anna Osei - Professional Coach & Activist
Lee Anna Osei is the Founder of the Black Canadian Coaches Association, Canletes Sports, and currently works as a University varsity athletics Coach at STFX University in Nova Scotia, where she is the Head Coach of the university's Women's Basketball Team and an Instructor in the Department of Human Kinetics.
Coach Lee grew up in Toronto, Ontario, played collegiate basketball at the NCAA and U Sports level, and is an advocate for gender and racial equality. She believes in Leadership Through Sport.
Vickie Croley - Professional Coach
Vickie is in her 27th year as the head coach of the Track and Field team at Western University. She graduated from McMaster in 1985 with an Honors Bachelor of Physical Education and a B.A. in Education from Western in 1987. During her career, Vickie competed in the hurdles, long jump and relays where she was an OWIAA medallist and CIAU competitor. She was acting head coach 1989-90 and an assistant coach at York University 1990-93 where she coached the jumps. As of July 2017 Vickie became a Full-time Coach at Western. Previously she was a faculty member teaching activity courses in the Kinesiology program within the Faculty of Health Sciences. She is a fully certified Level 4 coach and is also a National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) Sport Coach and Club Coach course conductor. While Head Coach of the Women's Track and Field Team, her teams have placed in the top 3 at the OUA Championship 20 times including winning two Championships and placing in the top 3 at the USports Championships 6 times and winning 1 Championship in 2002. While Head Coach of the Men's Track and Field Team since 1999, teams have placed in the top 3 at the OUA Championship 17 times and 5 times at the USports Championships winning the school's first USports Championship in 2012. Croley's coaching resume also boasts appointments as a National Team Coach 10 times.
Croley has been awarded with several coaching awards; the Ontario Sport Alliance Female Coach of the Year twice, a three-time Petro Canada Coaching Award Recipient, Three-time CIS Track and Field Coach of the Year, four-time OUA Track and Field Coach of the Year, and two-time OUA Women's Coach of the Year for all sports. Croley is also in both the McMaster Sports Hall of Fame and the Western University Sports Hall of Fame. In 2017 she was recognized as a YMCA Women of Excellence in Western Ontario. Croley was the lead coach of Olympic Bronze medallist Damian Warner at the 2016 Olympics.
Melissa Famme - Official/Referee
Melissa studied sociology at the University of Waterloo, and completed her Bachelor and Master's degrees in Education at Lakehead University. During this time, Melissa played five years as a varsity basketball athlete, securing Rookie of the Year for the women's basketball program in the 1999-2000 season; additionally, she was ranked on the CIS Leaderboard in 2005 while playing at Lakehead.
Since graduation, Melissa has stayed involved in the game by playing in women's leagues, coaching, and as an official. Her passion for basketball did not end at graduation, but challenged her to find new ways to stay involved in the game. Officiating became much more than a pastime, and provided many opportunities on and off the court. Melissa was also a nominated referee for the 2020 U Sports National Women's Basketball Championship in Ottawa.
Shireen Ahmad - Sport Journalist & Activist
Shireen Ahmed is a multi-platform sports journalist, public speaker, mentor, and award-winning sports activist who focuses on Muslim women, and the intersections of racism and misogyny in sports. Her work has been featured and discussed in various media outlets. Her expertise is sought by major television and radio networks.
She is part of the "Burn It All Down" feminist sports podcast team. The first feminist sports podcast that analyzes sports culture from an intersectional feminist lens.
When she isn't watching soccer, she drinks coffee as a tool of resistance. She was one of the 2019 TEDxToronto Speakers, and is currently pursuing a Masters in Media Production at Ryerson University. She lives in Mississauga with her family and her cat.
Dr. Angela Schneider - Professor in Kinesiology
Dr. Schneider is a professor in Kinesiology at Western University, Faculty of Health Sciences. Her research interests are philosophy and ethics in sport, Olympic Studies, and women and sport.
Dr. Schneider was the first director for the World Anti-Doping Agency for Ethics and Education and is a former Assistant Dean for Ethics and Equity for the Faculty of Health Sciences at Western University.
She is an Olympian and won a silver medal in rowing for the women's Coxed Fours in the 1984 Olympics for Canada.
Cheryl Finn - Sport Administrator
Cheryl hails from small town Northern Ontario where she excelled in Competitive swimming, Synchronized Swimming, tennis, cross country running, track and field and her main love, basketball.
Cheryl moved to London Ontario in 1993 from Northern Ontario and quickly became involved in the community sport movement. She was the Executive Director of the London Sports Council where she was successful in building on a strong business model and implemented many new and innovative ideas resulting in a strong, grass root sport community in London.
As the former Director of Sport Tourism for Tourism London, she has led successful bids to host the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships, the Continental Cup of Curling, Memorial Cup, Hockey Canada Foundation Golf and Gala, and various multi-sport events including the Ontario Summer Games and Special Olympics Canada Summer Games (her all-time favorite). Cheryl is currently the General Manager of Tourism London.
Theresa Carriere - Volunteer Coach
Theresa Carriere graduated from the Fanshawe College Fitness & Health Promotions program in 1986.
While attending Fanshawe, Theresa played varsity basketball for three years. Once graduating, Theresa remained at Fanshawe to coach the Women's Basketball Team with her husband, Bill for 7 years. After raising a family, Theresa returned to coaching at Fanshawe College in 2012 with Bill and her daughters Nicole and Danielle. Theresa and Bill spent many years coaching with the London City Ramblers as well.
Theresa is a Personal Trainer, Life Coach Practitioner and Strength & Conditioning coach for over 25 years. She trains some of London's top athletes, including the London Falcons FC. Theresa enjoys sharing her passion of health and fitness. Her commitment and enthusiasm engages athletes to strive to reach their potential.
Theresa founded a cancer fundraiser called, ONERUN. After surviving her own bout with cancer, Theresa felt compelled to give back & to show her appreciation for a community of supporters and ran 100kms in ONE day to raise money for cancer patient care programs. Since its inception, ONERUN has raised over one million dollars. ONERUN celebrates its 10th year on June 19th. Theresa will once again attempt 100kms in one day. She has invited survivors from across the country to join her, showing that 'Together We Fight'.
Caroline Ehrhardt - Elite Athlete
Caroline Ehrhardt graduated from Western in 2015.
While competing on the Western track and field she won 4 Usport Championships and broke Western University and U SPORTS triple jump records.
In her final year at Western, Caroline was named a top 8 Academic All Canadian and was awarded both the Howard G. Ferguson award - recognizing the graduating student who has made the biggest contributions academically, athletically, and in the community - as well as FWP Jones trophy as Western's graduating athlete of the year.
Outside of her time as a Mustang, Caroline has won 8 national titles and has represented Canada on 6 national teams, including the World Francophone Games where she won gold in 2017 with a personal best of 13.83m.
She is currently training in hopes of becoming the first female triple jumper to represent Canada at the Olympics.
Vicky Sunohara - Professional Coach
Vicky Sunohara is a three-time Canadian Olympian who was once described as "the Wayne Gretzky of women's hockey". She is currently in her 9th season as the head coach of the University of Toronto Women's Hockey Team.
She made Olympic debut at Nagano 1998 where women's ice hockey also debuted as part of the Olympic program. Team Canada and Vicky took home silver at Nagano 1998. Vicky would return to the Olympic Games at both Salt Lake City 2002 and Turin 2006 where she and Team Canada took home back-to-back gold medals. Over three Olympic Games, Vicky appeared in 16 games and recorded 13 points. A member of the women's national program from 1989 until her retirement in 2008, Vicky appeared in eight International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championships (7 gold, 1 silver) playing 40 games and totalling 41 points.
Vicky was named Ontario's female athlete of the year for 2006 and was also a part of the Inaugural class of the Scarborough Walk of Fame that same year. In 2009, Vicky was selected by the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee to be Toronto's final torchbearer as Toronto welcomed the Vancouver-bound 2010 Olympic flame on its cross-country journey. She lit the cauldron before thousands of spectators at Nathan Phillips Square. In 2018, Vicky was inducted into the Toronto Sport Hall of Honour and on September 11, 2019, she was appointed Honorary Lieutenant Colonel of The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada, a Primary Reserve regiment of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Vicky and her teammates from the 2006 Canadian Olympic gold medal winning hockey team were inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame in 2012.
Corie Crossan - PhD Candidate & Volunteer Coach
Corey Crossan is currently completing her doctoral program studying the development of leader character in sport.
Corey grew up competing in both elite volleyball and golf – leading to a NCAA Division 1 golf scholarship at Eastern Michigan University.
After completing her time at Eastern Michigan University, she decided to pursue graduate school while also returning to her love of volleyball as a Coach. She continues to coach volleyball, currently coaching the 18U Girls Forest City Volleyball Team.
Her research interests include how character can be developed to enhance and sustain high performance athletics.
Joy SpearChief-Morris - Elite Athlete
Joy is an Indigenous Black Canadian 100m hurdler. A proud member of Kainai Blood Tribe, Joy grew up in Lethbridge, Alberta where her she developed her love for sport by chasing around her older brother. Joy briefly attended the University of British Columbia where she was a 2x All American and 2014 NACAC U23 silver medalist in the 4x100m relay. She transferred to Western University in 2014 where she completed her Bachelor's degree and competed as a Mustang on the Western Track and Field Team.
While at Western, Joy became a highly-decorated sprinter and hurdler. She is a Canadian university national champion and 7x national medalist; 3x Ontario University Athletics Champion, 8x OUA medalist and 2x OUA Female Track Event MVP; 5x Academic All Canadian; 3x Western Mustangs Women's Track MVP, and the Western Women's Track and Field's record holder in the 60m, 60m hurdlers and 4x200m first leg split. In 2017 Joy was named Western's F.W.P. Jones Top Graduating Female Athlete of The Year as well as the Honourable G. Ferguson Award for high achievement as a graduating student-athlete. Joy was also recognized for her accomplishments as an Indigenous athlete on and off the track with the 2017 Tom Longboat Award and with both the 2017 OUA and USports Student Athlete Community Service Awards.
Joy has a Bachelor's degree in History and First Nation Studies and recently completed a Master's degree in Political Science specializing in Transitional Justice and Post-Conflict Reconstruction at Western University. She recently sat on the Board of Directors for AthletesCAN and was a member of the Athletes Council for Athletics Canada. Joy recently represented Canada at the 2019 International University Sports Federation (FISU) World Universidad where she placed 5th in the 100m hurdles. Joy currently trains in London, Ontario where she is preparing for the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games.
Teresa Boere - Career Educator - Careers & Experience
For over two decades, Teresa’s career focus has been helping people build capacity and connection, and curate skills for successful employment. Teresa has guided and supported diverse client populations, ranging from military veterans, to adults injured in the workplace and in motor vehicle accidents, to post secondary students and recent alumni.
In her current role as a Career Educator at Western University, Teresa specializes in career and job search support and helps students design a meaningful life and career, explore opportunities, articulate skills and land jobs. She facilitates workshops on resume and cover letter development and oversees Western’s Employment Resource Centre where student leaders provide peer support on application documents and interview skills.
Teresa holds an Honours Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Family Studies from the University of Guelph and a certificate in Human Resources Management from Fanshawe College. She welcomes and encourages workshop participants to develop or edit their resumes during the presentation!
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Blog by Caroline Wiley. Caroline bridged her 20+ years of professional experience in the sport and recreation industry together with her passions for photography and supporting women in sport to create SeeWhatSheCanDo. Her vision is to create a welcoming space where active women find a sense of belonging within a local community, see themselves in authentic and awe-inspiring ways and find resources to help them be their best active selves.
We wish to thank the Conference Committee Members for providing speaker, panelist and moderator descriptions for this blog. All photos provided by the Conference Committee unless otherwise indicated.
SeeWhatSheCanDo is a proud sponsor of the inaugural Western University's "Stay In the Game: Pathways for Women in Sport" Virtual Conference. Use this link to register today for the Conference. See you there.
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