Community Newspaper Columns

Women’s World Cup an opportunity to look beyond gender in sports

May 2015

The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup is coming to Canada, to Ottawa and to Capital Ward this June! I am excited. Very excited. I’ve purchased two passports to all the Ottawa games and I’ll be watching as many as I can get away with (maybe checking a few scores during the slow moments of some meetings) because I love soccer. I love women’s soccer.

In my final year at Queen’s University, when it became painfully obvious that my own competitive days were numbered, a friend recruited me as co-coach of the women’s soccer team. They — we — went on to win the Ontario championship in 1984.

It’s instructive to take that little nostalgic trip back in time because, back in the 1980s, there was no national tournament for women’s soccer. This was as far as you could go, so who knows what our Queen’s squad was capable of that year.

In fact, ours was not even an official team. We were a “club” with virtually no funding. And our best players were not being scouted for the national team, because there was no national team. There was also no World Cup for women — that would not come until 1991.

Our women, like all female soccer players at that time, were playing the beautiful game just for the love of it — for the fun, the endorphin rush, the physical fitness, the camaraderie and the break from studying. And there was nothing wrong with that: Girls/women playing sports just because they wanted to.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Like the women’s hockey team, or those who practised any other rough and tumble “men’s” sports, these were not typical athletes. They were among the very small percentage of university-aged women still engaged in regular physical activity, and they did have to endure their share of cheap shots and comments about whether it was appropriate to get sweaty, muddy, bruised and even bloodied.

Fast forward to 2015: I am glad that so much has changed, but I am saddened that it has not changed enough. Still, the percentage of females engaging in sports or any other form of regular physical activity plummets as soon as girls reach their teens. There are all kinds of reasons: body awareness, peer pressure, cultural norms, time pressures, etc. But at the heart of it, regular physical activity is still seen as more of a “guy thing”. That’s especially true of sports played with the intensity and frequency required to trigger the full range of known physical and mental health benefits, as well as that all-important self-confidence boost that, research shows, comes from being physically fit. It’s hard to believe, with such great Canadian role models in Christine Sinclair, Haley Wickenheiser, Clara Hughes, Eugenie Bouchard, the Dufour-Lapointe sisters and others, but it’s a fact.

So here is what I am hoping Canada/Ottawa/Capital Ward will get from hosting this summer’s marquee soccer event:

  1. A chance to marvel at the speed, dexterity, power and focus of the players we will see.
  2. A chance for girls and older women to be inspired by what they see, and translate that into a summer of getting fit or staying fit.
  3. A chance for all of us to wonder why we only pay good money to watch men’s professional sports, and for corporate sponsors to ask themselves why they aren’t putting more money into women’s sports.
  4. A chance for sports commentators and writers to get through the whole tournament without making gratuitous comments about any player’s or female coach’s looks, hair, body type or wardrobe. If you wouldn’t say it about Ronaldo, don’t say it about Marta!
  5. And finally, a chance for us all to look beyond gender entirely and to be the great hosts and fans I know we can be.

Friends of Taverner Park
A group of engaged residents living near the soon-to-be Percy Taverner Park at Woodbine Pl. and Carlyle Ave. have come together to formally adopt the newest park in Old Ottawa South. That means they’ll be the eyes and ears of the park and will work together to keep it clean once construction is completed in or around early September. If you’re interested in joining this group, send me an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I can put you in touch.

Safer crossing at Clegg
Completion of the new, safer crossing at Clegg and Colonel By is expected by June. The current construction and traffic restrictions around the intersection are a small price to pay for a new traffic light to be activated by pedestrians and cyclists as needed, new concrete sidewalks, and dedicated cycling links.

Seniors’ lunch
I am hosting a free lunch on June 17 for seniors who live in Capital Ward (the Glebe, Glebe Annex, Dow’s Lake, Old Ottawa South, Old Ottawa East, Heron Park, Riverside). Come to hear the special guest speaker, learn about seniors’ services provided by the City of Ottawa, and of course enjoy a nice lunch at the Colonel By, 43 Aylmer Ave.

Seating is limited, so register now by emailing or calling 613-580-2487. Doors open at 11 a.m.

Parenting portal
Ottawa Public Health (OPH) launched a new web portal,, to help residents access relevant, reliable and local parenting information.

The site addresses topics such as pregnancy, breastfeeding, your child’s growth and development, healthy eating, immunization and mental health. You’ll find advice on when to worry, when not to, and on how to talk to your child or teen about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, and puberty and sexuality. Finally, you can find out how to access community services for your family.

For more information, please visit or call the OPH Information Line at 613-580-6744.