Currently located in Melbourne, Australia (usually Ottawa, ON)
Who are you?
I am a 27 year-old Canadian woman born in Ottawa and raised in Egypt, Zimbabwe, Barbados, Cuba, Australia and many places in between. I really like sports and playing outside, especially with my wonderful husband Samuel.
What kind of awesome shit are you up to?
At the moment, I am in Melbourne, Australia for the International Cup of Australian Football, where I'll be competing with my Team Canada teammates against six other teams for the title of world champion. Australian football (also known as Aussie rules or footy), which is relatively unknown outside of Australia, is a full-contact ball sport played on a large, round field, where 18 players on each team move the ball down the field by kicking and hand-passing to score goals between upright posts. You should totally Google it.
The sport involves a butt-load of running, lots of accurate kicking, big catches and powerful tackles. It is full contact and very physical, with only a mouthguard to protect your teeth and brains. But it's not so much a game of crunching hits - agility, speed, strategy and intelligence are your strongest weapons - and watching the ball move expertly between teammates, who are constantly under pressure from their opponents, is a beautiful thing.
I play for an awesome club team called the Ottawa Swans (ottawaswans.com), and am also the assistant coach of the women's team.
How did you start out?
I actually lived in Australia for a few years as I was finishing my undergraduate degree and starting out my professional career, where I had at least learned of the game's existence, but it wasn't until I returned home to Ottawa that I actually touched a ball and gave it a try.
My pal, Ricki-Lee, and I were toying with the idea of returning to rugby, which we had both played competitively for several years. A mutual friend suggested we try Aussie rules instead, so we headed out for a training session and became instantly addicted. By bringing in a few friends to combine with the women we met at practice, we managed to establish the first-ever women's team in Ottawa and entered the provincial competition, the Ontario Australian Football League.
Now in it's third season, we are currently a top team in the province and have the biggest roster of any club.
Where would you like to go with AFL?
Short-term goals include being a member of the winning team at the International Cup here in Melbourne. It would feel pretty good to be a part of a world champion team.
My main aspirations for football, however, are focused on the continued development of this sport. I want to see growth in women's football across Canada (and beyond), and have "footy" become part of the average sports fan's vocabulary. There's a reason why it's the number one spectator sport in Australia, a country fanatic about sports - it's incredible to watch, and even better to play.
In an ideal world, the women's competition would be a leading sporting choice for women and girls in Ontario and Canada, with a youth program to expose kids to the game at an early age and feed the competitive leagues around the country.
I hope to remain a part of this community and help to grow our presence and influence until these goals are achieved.
What was the hardest part to getting where you are now?
It can be tough to juggle work, family, and leisure time with a demanding training schedule, but in the end, it's been well worth it.
Physical pain and injury is also always a challenge - there is nothing more disheartening than having everything you need to succeed mentally and fitness-wise but find yourself sidelined with an injury. It takes a lot of courage and determination to get yourself through the recovery process.
What's the best part about doing what you do and being a woman?
I am used to being underestimated. As a woman, particularly one who's on the smaller side, people don't expect much from me. But I've learned to use that to my advantage!
The camaraderie of women's sports is also really special - we really look out for one another, we're caring and supportive. And it's such a treat to see other women and girls gain the kind of strength, confidence and courage that comes from being a part of a cohesive team. Sometimes, as a girl, you can be made to feel like you shouldn't be playing sports, particularly contact sports. But I dare you to say that to any of my teammates!
What types of daily habits have led to your success?
Lots of sleep! And just a general affinity for activity - I don't worry about missing workouts because my days are full of walking, bike rides, swims, jogs, rec sports and other things that keep me moving.
It's also important to just chill and de-stress. I like reading and taking baths, often simultaneously.
What advice to you have to those who want to be doing what you're doing?
Look up your city to see if they have a club team - there are quite a few out there! And if you're curious but nervous, just give it a try! I know a lot of people, both men and women, hesitate to venture into contact sports. A lot of people are turned off right away at the idea - but if you've never tried it and that's the only knock you have against trying something new - give it a shot! You may be surprised.
The great thing about being part of a sport that is relatively new and still developing, particularly in Canada and the US, is that you're never going to be the only one who is new to the game. We're all learning, certainly at the club level, but even at the national level. It's a sport that is full of potential and possibility.
Who is your role model?
My parents. They are awesome. They are brave and brilliant and hilarious and I owe them everything for an exceptionally wonderful and inspiring childhood. They continue to be completely supportive of me and everything I do - in fact, they arrive in Australia in a week to cheer me on for the duration of the tournament. How awesome is that?
How do you like to you spoil yourself rotten?
Massage therapy. I'm a big fan. I also enjoy holidays to foreign lands, an occasional over-indulgence of delicious food, and a really good pair of cleats.
Help Emma out in Australia:
Check out Canada Northern Lights results and streaming games in Australia:
YES! Emma, you're so friggin badass. This is the first installment of Spoiled Rotten's new series, "Awesome Women Doing Cool Shit". Wanna nominate yourself, or someone you know to be featured? We're talking sports, art, community, business, any area where a dope ass woman is excelling and deserves a lil recognition. Drop us a line at email@example.com.