Recognizing female leadership

(Photo by Heather Davidson)
(Photo by Heather Davidson)

Women athletes are taking Wilfrid Laurier University by storm.

Last week, the department of athletics and recreation announced its finalists for this year’s Outstanding Women of Laurier (OWL) award. But this award, which combines athletic and academic excellence with community development, means more than just another achievement on a resume.

“It shows that women’s athletics is an up and coming thing,” said fourth-year women’s soccer defender Kelsey Tikka, who is one of four nominees. “People used to really disregard it and not think it was as good as men’s sports, but now it’s a huge thing and now that we can bring it to the community level, it’s a good experience.”

Tikka is joined by teammate Emily Brown, as well as Bree Chaput and Doreen Bonsu from the women’s basketball team.

In its ninth year as part of the annual awards at Laurier, OWL brings forth female nominees in the Laurier community who excel at athletics, academics and volunteer service in the community.

Despite the extra load of responsibility from being a part of a varsity team, each of the four nominees expressed the importance of being able to reach out to young women in the community and in each of their hometowns.

Chaput, a fourth-year kinesiology major and guard for the women’s basketball team, emphasized the importance of female role models from this award. In her first year, Renata Adamczyk was Chaput’s role model.

“I think it’s really important to recognize women for their sporting achievements and also academics and community involvement, especially from a role model standpoint,” she said. “I think sport is so important for development physically, socially and academically. So I think the biggest thing is being a role model and young kids seeing these girls who have excelled in sport and are able to still keep it up academically.”

For Bonsu, a fourth-year history and English major and forward with the women’s basketball team, this is her second time seeing her name as a nominee.

Last year, Bonsu stood beside women’s rugby player Carmen Baker and women’s hockey player Fiona Lester. And yet, Bonsu knows how much this award gives back to the female athletes at WLU.

“The first time I was shocked, and the second time I was equally as shocked,” she laughed. “If someone were to tell me in my first year that I would go to nationals, have an opportunity to go to nationals again in your fourth year, be co-captain, be amongst the leaders in rebounding in the CIS, be nominated for OWL, I’d probably laugh in their face.”

As the only third-year athlete nominated this year, Brown, a business major and striker for the women’s soccer team, expressed that it adds an extra duty going into another year.

Brown will have at least one more year with the Hawks, with the option of staying for a fifth year.

“I think it puts a sense of responsibility on me for next year,” Brown said. “I do want to take a more active role in the community. Knowing what being a part of women’s soccer at Laurier and what it’s done for me, I would love to be able to share that with other people and to try to inspire them to be in this situation because it’s been the best experience of my life. And I have one year left, and I just don’t ever want it to end.”

All four nominees emphasized that this award speaks volumes to the growth of female involvement in athletics and community engagement—regardless if they win.

“University is a time when you try to find yourself. Be true to yourself, embrace your strengths, love who you are and everything will work out,” Bonsu said.

The award will be handed out at the annual luncheon at the Waterloo Inn Conference Hotel on Mar. 26th. This year’s keynote speaker will be Kelly Murumets from Tennis Canada, who was formerly the president of ParticipACTION.

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