Queens of Queen’s: Part 2

Female student-athletes prepared for professional life, but not professional sports

Sports are preparing female athletes to excel after graduation.

When the final whistle blows, the majority of graduating female student-athletes must come to terms with a harsh reality: the end of their elite athletic careers.

Their time as Gaels isn’t confined to the past, but instead fuels their future successes.

To celebrate the athletes that led the way for our current Queen’s women in sports, The Journal asked Queen’s female varsity alumni what effects playing sports at Queen’s had on their current success. Here’s what they had to say:

“Not a day goes by in my life after Queen’s, through grad school and my career, where I don’t use the skills and characteristics built up over years of competitive sport. It’s the confidence, competitiveness, teamwork, and focus that allow me to overcome any barriers, especially as a woman in the workplace, and empower me to accomplish my goals. My advice for student-athletes: let the chaos build character. That can’t be learned in a classroom. Remember that this opportunity is a privilege, put in the work and you’ll never regret it.”

-Emilie Normand, Volleyball (middle and right side), ‘15 


“When I reflect on my career since I graduated in 2001, I realize that my most important skills came from my involvement with team sports. It has given me confidence, motivation, leadership skills, and a very strong work ethic, all which have greatly benefited my career. I have taught squash to young children and I have two young daughters of my own, whom I strongly encourage to participate in sports. The positive impact on their confidence, happiness and overall energy is amazing. I hope that their experience with sports will be as influential as it was for me!”

-Carolyn Pittman (formerly Marrack), Squash (former captain), ‘01


 “Sport is a microcosm for society at large—the best way to advance is by working together and trusting each other. I absorbed this mentality during my time at Queen’s, as a combined business student and student-athlete. Not only has sport taught me to become a confident leader and integrative thinker, but to continuously seek out and support other resilient leaders with common values and run towards my goals—both on and off the ice. The diversity of thought and rigorous business foundation that Queen’s instils well positions women in sport to routinely leverage evolving momentum and excel in the industry with a mindset as versatile as their skillset. This is essential in moving the needle within the global women’s sport landscape.”

-Katrina Galas, Hockey (centre/RW), ‘05


The drive these Queen’s alumni have is consistent with our current athletes. In the 2018-19 season, near 40 per cent of Gaels were honoured as Academic All-Stars, maintaining a GPA of 3.5 or higher.

Women’s basketball had the second-highest cumulative GPA among varsity teams, and player Megan Saftich was one of four awarded with the Nixon Award, which goes to a player who excels in academics, athletics, and community involvement. Saftich was joined by fellow female athlete Erin Lee from women’s swimming.

But for our male athletes, Queen’s isn’t necessarily the end of their athletic career.

In the year of 2019 alone, men’s hockey alumni Justin Fazio and Slater Doggett parted with tricolour to play professionally, and men’s basketball alumni Tanner Graham and Jaz Bains both found professional basketball contracts abroad as well.

Already this year, OUA football lineman of the year, Cameron Lawson, finds himself in the Top 20 of the Canadian Football League (CFL) winter scouting bureau rankings.

Where is this opportunity for women? Put simply, it fails to exist for the majority.

Outside of making national teams—a goal that Queen’s women’s volleyball icon Caroline Livingston accomplished this year—it’s rare for female student-athletes’ futures to include professional athletics.

Additionally, over the course of last year, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) was discontinued after only 12 years; the US women’s soccer team went to court over unequal pay after their world cup gold medal win; and Canada’s women’s U18 gold medal game failed to be broadcasted or even promoted to the nation, to name a few instances.

The world of sport continues to fail women with a lack of opportunity that’s fueled by empty excuses as to why women aren’t acknowledged as professionals.

However, there is hope on the horizon. The WNBA is a perfect example of how, when women fight and work together, they can achieve success.

Although the future may not often hold professional contracts or performances on a world stage for Queen’s women, each Queen’s athlete hangs up their tricolour for a future of success, no matter where they may find it.

Just like their predecessors, our current female athletes continue to break barriers, leaving the athletic world a better place than they first found it.

In the third and final part of this series, we’ll hear from coaches of the women’s teams on the foundation and philosophy they build for their athletes to achieve success.



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