By: David Grossman for Canadian Sport Institute Ontario
Canadian Sport Institute Ontario believes in the power of sport and the importance of positive, inspiring role models and mentors at all levels of sport. This 5-part article series, written by award-winning sport journalist David Grossman, was designed to showcase how these remarkable women in the industry have used sport, and the many transferable skills learned through sport, as a pathway to professional opportunities and leadership positions.
In partnership with Sport Canada and their funding support for Gender Equity in Sport and Safety in Sport initiatives, CSIO strives to be a leader in advocating for a more inclusive, gender equitable sport system.
Reaching success often requires the ability to deal with struggle, tolerance and negativity.
It’s no different in the world of sport.
Stephanie Jameson and Martha McCabe have a long time passion for sport, represented Canada on the international stage and remained focused on objectives. It hasn’t just been about acceptance and equality, but drawing attention to performance.
Jameson’s forte is in field hockey. For McCabe, it’s swimming.
Both women, and their sport, were inseparable for years. Yet, what also makes these two individuals distinctly emerge as leaders is their ability to organize, detail and produce with great results.
“What matters is how you see yourself,” said Jameson, who grew up in a family of athletes and went on to win three Canadian university field hockey titles while studying at the University of British Columbia.
“When I was 10 years old, I was a gymnast and also played softball – didn’t think about field hockey until age 16. But then, I thought long and hard about my future and when I made the Junior National squad, my first opportunity at playing for Canada, I had something special.”
Super positive, it showed with Jameson, at one time, holding the record as Canada’s most capped field hockey international player.
“I’ve had a big influence and am very proud of my field hockey career, the work as an athlete, the legacy I left and the impact on others,” said Jameson, who retired in 2012 from active play. “As an athlete, I was always looking at working in the world of sport.”
Life’s adventure continued for Jameson as she shuffled off on a scholarship to further her education, and earned a Master’s Degree in Ireland. That’s where she also spent six months working for Sports Institute Northern Ireland and learning how they drive excellence in high performance.
“It was time to come home and I wanted to support (Canada’s) National athletes, see their goals and work with them to help reach them,” said Jameson, who admits to being a bit crafty and deceptive on the field of play. “That was back then, now I am clever, resourceful and I’ve learned a great deal about supporting our National athletes, see their goals and who is there to help them.”
Working first as a High Performance Athlete Advisor at CSIO and now as the Manager, Performance Services, located at the Toronto Pan Am Centre, Jameson calls this a very special opportunity.
“We are at our best examining from different perspectives,” said Jameson, a former player, coach and now mentor. “I like to call it synergy – people (at CSIO) working together with a common goal of helping Canadian athletes.”
For McCabe, all she did was compete amongst the world’s elite swimmers at the Olympics, World Championships, Commonwealth Games, Pan Am Games, and the list goes on.
A former Athlete of the Year at Leaside High School in Toronto, gifted in many sports, McCabe went on to earn Canada’s Female Swimmer of the Year in 2012 – the same year she made the Olympic final in London. In the 200-metre breaststroke, which is her specialty, there was never any ambivalence. Her best performance in the pool was a year earlier with a bronze medal at the World finals in Shanghai.
With her competitive days over, McCabe is now driven by emotions and devotion. She turned her attention to helping youngsters dream big and launched Head to Head (www.headtohead.ca) – an organization that inspires and provides mentorship to boys and girls across Canada through programs in clubs and schools.
“For me, it was my first year in university when swimming got serious,” said McCabe, who fondly remembers the important role CSIO played in her swim career. “As a high performance athlete, they’re always there – doctors helping, physiotherapists, coaches, you name it, quick action and tremendous support.
“To get to the highest level, you need it. As an athlete, you have to eat and sleep better, get advice that works, stay focused. In one word, CSIO was – supportive. I look back, my biggest highlight in swimming wasn’t a result, but working with positive influencers, mentors and leaders who made an impact on me. That’s the biggest medal.”
Now, a graduate of the University of British Columbia, and at one time interested in a career in medicine and nursing, McCabe continues her lifelong adventure – but now helps others in the same way people impacted her.