Women athletes ‘blown away’ by approach to empowerment
Two prospective Olympic Summer Games athletes say they were “blown away” to discover how closely the Linden School’s athletic policy of no cuts on its sports teams parallels their own path.
Track stars Kate Van Buskirk and Megan Brown, who aim to qualify for the 2016 Games in Rio, were guest speakers in February at a special assembly celebrating the 20th anniversary of Linden, where they shared their athletic trials and tribulations with 100 students, parents and teachers.
“I’m enrolling tomorrow,” Brown said with a laugh while signing autographs for the girls after the assembly. “Our minds are blown about what this school is doing for these women — empowerment in sport.
“I really believe as they do, that an inclusive, encouraging, positive program can help these girls develop into healthy, empowered adults.”
Van Buskirk, who attended Duke University in North Carolina, echoed that sentiment.
“I was lucky to have encouraging role models in sport growing up, but not enough of them women,” she said, while signing an
autograph for 7-year-old Serena Emerson. “It wasn’t until I got to university and found a woman-specific program there that really helped to merger that, but I can only imagine the benefits that I would have had if I had that at a young age.”
Some may balk at the program, but phys-ed head Deidre Macpherson says she has seen the benefits.
Macpherson arrived in 2003, and since the policy of walk-ons has been in place the school has won 20 Small Schools Athletic Federation championships.
“We’re constantly saying, ‘We need to hear your voice. What do you think about this? What’s your opinion? We need you to talk in the huddles’,” Macpherson said. “It only invigorates whatever they decide to do.”
Her colleague, Elizabeth Forbes, joined the school seven years ago with the same mindset.
“It gives the girls the opportunity to see that with commitment to practice, and time to work on their skills, that everyone has the ability for self-improvement,” she said.
Mahal De La Durantaye, a student who left Linden only to come back for academics, says she realized she took the walk-on sports policy for granted.
“I thought that because it’s a walk-on team, the competitiveness isn’t as high as if I go to a regular high school,” admitted De La Durantaye, who went to Northern Secondary for Grade 10, and played basketball for the Red Knights, but returned this year for Grade 11. “I don’t think that’s the way it is.
“The coaches want you to be the best. Feeling valued and growing as an athlete, you grow as a person. You gain confidence, become a role model and that spreads to other parts of your life.”