Women’s soccer pioneer still playing the game with passion

Jody McGregor, who celebrated her 50th birthday this summer, has been playing on the same soccer team the past 34 years. Troy Shantz

Troy Shantz

The athletic career of most people ends long before they turn 50. Not Jody McGregor.

The city woman plays fullback on the Division Two Sarnia City soccer team in the competitive London Area Soccer League.

“The passion of my life is soccer,” said McGregor, who hit the half-century mark on July 21.

“One of the reasons I’m still playing is passion for the game.”

When McGregor took the field with Sarnia City for the first time 34 years ago women’s soccer was regarded as a fringe sport.

“There was a core group of Sarnia girls,” she said. “Now there’s hundreds and hundreds but back then there was like 20 or 25.”

The St. Patrick’s High School grad and clinical manager at Bluewater Health said the hardest thing back then was finding a team.

“There wasn’t a lot of time put into female soccer,” she said.

“I was willing to play with whoever would accept me.”

In fact, when as a 16-year-old she joined Sarnia City it was the only adult women’s soccer squad in the city. And the notion of a travel team was foreign, she said.

Pooling their funds, the squad would rent a 15-passenger van and head to matches around southern Ontario.

“They would think we were crazy to drive to London for a soccer game,” she recalled.

“Now we go three times a week.”

McGregor said she considers hanging up the cleats from time to time, but the explosive growth and rising skill level of women’s soccer is too exciting to leave behind.

She does spend more time on the sidelines these days, and watching her nine-year-old daughter play soccer is now part of the fun.

McGregor said she could never have imagined a soccer career spanning three decades.

“Not in a million years,” she said, adding when the time comes she’ll know.

“If I feel like I can’t contribute I’ll be done,” she said. “Every year that I get to play is a gift.”