Queens of Queen’s: Part 1

Celebrating and analyzing 125 years of women in sports at Queen’s

125 years of women in sports at Queen’s is cause for celebration.
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“Lead the Way.” The words that are plastered throughout fill the ARC. The mantra is the beating tricolour heart that pushes Queen’s to success, and it’s the philosophy that turns an athlete into a Gael.

This 2019-20 season, Queen’s is celebrating 125 years of Queen’s women in sport, leading the way with participation in every U SPORTS- and OUA-recognized sport.

In 1894, Queen’s women smashed through the glass ceiling of male-dominated university sport, turning around and offering a hand up to every female athlete who followed behind them.

As celebration of this history, The Journal asked current female-identifying student-athletes what it means for them to be a woman in sport. Here’s what they had to say:

“First, I think it’s important to recognize and give thanks to all the women before me who made it possible to be successful in athletics. My former coaches on the Nordic Ski Team were excellent examples of what kind of woman I aspire to be. Being a woman in sport means lifting each other up, supporting all who chose to take part, and showing the world how powerful we can be.”

—Sydney Raspberry, third year, Varsity Nordic Ski

 

“Being a woman in sport means working twice as hard to earn respect as an athlete. It means repeatedly having to prove yourself to men who have never played before, yet confidently claim they can play your position better than you. Being a woman in sport means that the love for your sport is so powerful it gives you the strength to break down barriers you never imagined you could. Femininity does not make us any less of an athlete. Instead, we create a new mindset in the athletic world; women and strength go hand-in-hand.”

—Christina Holmes, second year, Varsity Lacrosse (attacker)

 

"Regardless of gender, sport is a teacher of invaluable life lessons, a provider of the most memorable experiences, and a powerful expression of self. Being an athlete means that I’m strong, capable, and resilient. It means that I’m part of a team, a family, and something bigger than myself. The way I see it, these benefits of sport don’t depend on gender. To me, being a woman in sport simply means that I’m a person in sport. As we progress society, it’s my hope that all young girls possess this viewpoint.” 

—Robin Ketcheson, fourth year, Varsity Women’s Hockey (forward)

 

Women in sport means equality. I believe that one of our biggest [advances] towards gender equality in sports would be the fact that to ‘play like a girl’ no longer represents a weakness. If someone were to say that to me when I was younger, I would feel some kind of shame. Today, if someone said that to me, I would embrace it. If they wanted to compare me to women like Alex Morgan, Chloe Kim, or Serena Williams, I would be more than happy to ‘play like a girl.’”

—Jessie Chen, third year, Varsity Ultimate (Captain)

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In all of these statements, an overwhelming sense of ‘us’ is communicated: a collective.

Although all of these women have already broken through barriers, they look ahead at a pathway seemingly filled with infinitely more, watching from afar as their male counterparts advance further. The only way to break through is together.

The first half of the 2019-20 season saw one of the best cumulative runs by female teams that Queen’s has ever seen.

Undefeated regular seasons, two OUA Championships, U SPORTS gold and silver medals, numerous podium finishes; a national gold medal for sailing, a silver for ultimate, a University Cup for cycling, and numerous playoff appearances rounded out the decade for the Gaels.

Six teams, out of a potential nine, appeared in the national rankings for the 2019-20 season as of January 2020, including some record-breaking firsts.

Women’s rugby reached first in the nation for the first time in program history, women’s basketball tied their highest national ranking ever at third, and both women’s volleyball and women’s wrestling clinched a national ranking for the first time ever in program history.

In celebration of 125 years of Queen’s women in sport, the Athletics department made multiple adjustments to the way they conducted the 2019-20 season.

Some examples include an emphasis on the marketing material having an equal representation of men and women, a promotion being read by an in-game announcer at every home game alerting the crowd to the anniversary and accomplishments of our female athletes, and women’s teams being given select games where they hold the optimal game time of 8 p.m., while the men shift to the earlier 6 p.m. slot.

For women, they must exceed heightened expectations to have an eyelash batted towards them. Sophie de Goede, U SPORTS Player of the Year (2018), and Rachel Hickson, U SPORTS All-Canadian (2018), helped push the women’s rugby team into the limelight.

Their national nods forced people to recognize the fire that is Queen’s women’s rugby. For the first time since 2016 (and prior to that, 2013), a women’s rugby playoff game occurred during Homecoming weekend, under the lights on Friday night.

The game drew a crowd like the women had never seen before, flooding around Nixon Field and powering them to their second OUA gold in program history. The other was won in 2013, when the women played on Homecoming day.

Perhaps it’s just coincidence. Or perhaps, Queen’s movements shifting towards greater gender acknowledgement and equality in sport proves the most common excuse wrong—that there is a market for women in sport.

With equal support comes great success.

This is the first in a series of articles examining the experience of women in sport at Queen’s.

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