WEK 22: BRITTANY MATHISON
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in Toronto. My life in sports began in a community known as Regent Park. I am the youngest of 3 and the first of my siblings to truly fall completely in love with sports. Raised by a single mother with no sport background she made sure time and time again my dreams were met in what I loved to do. I did it all from ball hockey, to bowling, even ballet! I found true love when I began doing baseball in the summer and ice hockey in the winter more competitively around age 8. In elementary, high school, and college I played anything and everything. Hockey, softball, volleyball, soccer, rugby, cross country, track and field, dodgeball and badminton, if there was a team I was going to try and be a part of it. To this day I still play competitive and recreational fast pitch and hockey at age 25. I brought my love of the game and my experiences into my current jobs by teaching and mentoring in different sports to a number of diverse children and youth from all over Toronto primarily focusing on young girl’s involvement in sports.
Please share a story about an internal or external barrier you have faced. How did you overcome that barrier?
My first introduction into sports I played on male-dominated teams. I was always the only girl. From baseball to house league hockey even select my mom did not know that girls programming even existed.
I was 9 years old playing on a select team. The first step into competitive hockey for most. I was the only girl on the team. Let me tell you, it was NOT easy. In practices and in games I felt like no one would ever pass me the puck. I was a good player so skill had nothing to do with it. I had already discovered such a passion for this sport there was no way that I could quit. I remember after one practice I went to my mom and told her I wanted to cut all my hair off. Maybe if they did not know I was a girl they would play with me. She asked me 100 times if I was sure and I said YES (also my hair would always go in my face when I played so to me this was a win-win situation). The next practice, I went, got dressed and stepped onto the ice. My team did not even realize who I was I finally got to showcase my talent. The following year contact was coming into play. I was small, really small and my mom did not want me to play boys rep hockey. Luckily we got information about girl’s hockey and I started a new journey.
I thought I would never have to worry about being the only girl on the team again. Or the stigma of females playing with males. I entered into College at age 18. They did not have a baseball team or a woman’s hockey team but they did have a men’s hockey team. I built up the courage and decided I was going to try out. The stigma started as soon as I got into the rink. The person signing people in had said to me “I think you are at the wrong rink, there is only men’s hockey tryouts happening for the rest of the night”. I replied by saying “that’s exactly why I am here, to tryout”. I made the team and even played on the second line. Scoring more goals than half my team that year. I definitely heard all the “chirps” you could ever hear being the only female competing with the men. I would laugh it off and continue competing. One player on another team even tried to fight me because I successful got around him multiple times on the ice. Luckily for me I could stand my own and my team mates and coaches were extremely supportive of me being a part of the team. A found memory I have is a coach approaching me before a game saying “my boys won’t go easy on you because you are a girl so keep your head up”. I quickly responded with “I made the decision to compete alongside the men I will be just fine, but thank you”. It was difficult sometimes, I hate the stigma around female athletes or this whole notion “boys are better than girls” let me show you what I got before you go “easy” on me.