Growing up, I was always the tallest one in the class; towering over my peers, and even my three older sisters. My long legs meant I was also the fastest kid at school; beating the boys in every recess race by a mile.
By Grade 8, I’d racked up my fair share of medals in long jump, track & field, basketball and fastball.
But by the time I reached high school I’d grown out of love with my lean frame and gazelle-like speed, and began to feel more like one of those gangly inflatable tube guys you see at car dealerships.
So when track and field try-outs came around in Grade 9, I couldn’t muster up the courage to go; and that was the end of my athletic career.
It may sound silly, but it’s more common than you think.
According to a recent Canadian Women & Sport report, one in three girls drops out of sports by late adolescence. That’s compared to just one in ten boys.
Sport participation rates decline steadily from childhood to adolescence with as many as 62% of girls not playing sports at all, citing factors like low confidence, negative body image and a perceived lack of skill.
Girls need role models, and female sports need more visibility.
So I was thrilled to see Sarnia’s Carolyne Prevost named to the newly formed Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association’s Toronto squad, Team Sonnet. The 30-year-old Saint-François-Xavier High School grad grew up climbing the ranks of Sarnia Minor Hockey, skating circles around the boys.
“I remember some of the guys sometimes wanting to fight me, because at that age it was a little bit hard for them to see a girl take the puck away from them, skate by them,” she told The Journal back in 2018.
The hometown wonderwoman, now a teacher in Oakville, has won an incredible 11 national championships in four different sports, and last year, earned the title of Canada’s fittest woman after finishing first among Canadians at the CrossFit Games in Wisconsin, and #13th overall in the world.
But it’s what she’s doing off the ice that’s perhaps the most impactful.
A recent Toronto Star article noted Prevost’s passion for keeping girls in sports — encouraging her students to remain active and pursue things they might not otherwise try.
“Girls want to be active,” she told the newspaper. “A lot of times they don’t know how to get started or they feel embarrassed because they don’t want people to judge their technique or their bodies or themselves.
“So when they see a female teacher doing it, they think, maybe I can do it too.”
Prevost says she wants to help set the foundation for a viable women’s hockey league — something she never saw growing up.
“We are just trying to pave the way to create a league that girls can finally dream about,” she told me in a phone interview. “It wasn’t in my dreams growing up — because I didn’t see it — it wasn’t visible to me.”
That story is on page 23 of this week’s Journal, and it’s one of my favourites. When I told my daughters, both hockey players, that I was interviewing a female professional hockey player from Sarnia, (who is quite possibly the greatest all-around athlete this city has ever produced), they were all ears.
Thanks to women like Prevost, they’ve got something to dream about.