As goalkeeper for the national soccer team, Karina LeBlanc was part of the generation that put the Canadian game on the map. Between Olympic medals and high World cup expectations, the sky is now the limit.
But for LeBlanc and her cohorts, it was never just about what happened on the pitch.
Even in the big wins, the team aimed beyond the game of the day. The truly big play was to make women’s soccer a force for global change. Helping young women get the chance to participate in the world’s game, more often than not, also helped the national team players reassess themselves in positive ways.
Since becoming Head of CONCACAF Women’s Football, LeBlanc has had the privilege and pleasure to see it happen again and again in the 41 countries that represent the FIFA association: a shy girl comes to the pitch for the first time, and within a few hours sees herself as a player, with all the confidence, enthusiasm and strength that goes with that.
Player’s Own Voice podcast host Anastasia Bucsis leads Karina LeBlanc through a refreshingly optimistic conversation about a career in sports that still feels like the best is yet to come — even now.
Earlier this year, Karina wrote a powerful letter to her newborn daughter for CBC Sports’ Player’s Own Voice essay series, which, like the POV podcast, lets athletes speak to Canadians about issues from a personal perspective.
The ‘read’ and ‘listen’ versions of POV are now joined by a new way for athletes to share opinions and expertise about issues in Canadian sports: Player’s Own Voice in Studio brings digital video to the POV approach
To listen to all three seasons of Player’s Own Voice, subscribe for free on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Tune In or wherever you get your other podcasts.
Just because a challenge is easily understood, doesn’t mean it’s easily accomplished.
Example? A professional soccer league for Canadian women. Canadians love watching its stars in FIFA and Olympic play. Should be an open net, right?
Welcome to the daily dilemma for Carmelina Moscato, whose job is to make pro soccer happen in Canada, starting with League1 Ontario. The former national team star and internationally accredited coach comes on Player’s Own Voice podcast to break the situation down into manageable chunks.
Moscato is a first-principles kind of thinker. If you want to succeed in 10 years, you need robust systems that retain teenaged girls. A recent study shows female participation plummets at ages 10, 13 and 17. Young women who are elite athletes need a reasonable expectation that there are careers to pursue if they are going to practice and commit.
And how do universities play into the system? Why should Canadians have to head to the U.S. for scholarships? And what about a tier of women’s soccer leagues for lifetime participation and general health? And then there are all the ancilliary professions that a soccer nation needs: coaching, managing, training, physio, etc.
And while you are getting all those moving parts in place you also have to sway the prevailing mindset that men’s professional sports are an investment, while women’s pro sports are a tax write off. To do that right, you have to be in the boardrooms where those cheques are cut.
There’s nothing easy about any of that, but Moscato is persuasive and persistent. Anastasia Bucsis, host of CBC Sports’ Player’s Own Voice podcast, gets the playbook on making it happen.
Like the CBC Sports’ Player’s Own Voice essay series, POV podcast lets athletes speak to Canadians about issues from a personal perspective. To listen to this season and previous, subscribe at iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Tune In or wherever you get your other podcasts.
John Smythe has a harrowing story to tell. The Canadian National field hockey player was emerging as a young contender when he developed a series of mysterious and painful symptoms — as he says — from gums to bum. Inflammation, extreme gut trouble ensued.
Crohn’s disease is not a straightforward diagnosis to make and it is not an easy disease to live with. For a high-performance athlete, it’s even more of a challenge. The physical stress of an intense workout all by itself can be enough to trigger flare-ups.
But after multiple surgeries and ultimately four years away from the sport, Smythe’s recuperation is lasting, and he has built the ability to quickly recognize symptoms and triggers. Crohn’s is chronic, but Smythe has kept it in remission, to the extent that he’s gearing up fully for the Canadian men’s competition in the Tokyo Olympics.
Smythe leads Player’s Own Voice Podcast host Anastasia Bucsis through the long and dramatic medical ordeal that has brought him to his current state of health.
Like the CBC Sports’ Player’s Own Voice essay series, POV podcast lets athletes speak to Canadians about issues from a personal perspective. To listen to John Smythe and earlier guests this season, subscribe for free on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Tune In or wherever you get your other podcasts.
Jayna Hefford is the rare athlete whose work post competition threatens to overshadow her brilliant career.
And Hefford’s hockey days certainly warrant every superlative you can name: four consecutive Olympic gold medal, more career points than anyone other than Hayley Wickenheiser and she’s a natural captain, to boot.
There’s a reason why the best player in the league wins the Jayna Hefford trophy each year.
But Hefford’s challenge now goes straight to the core of almost every issue facing professional women in sport in Canada. As head of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association, Hefford leads 200 of the best players in the game toward the firm, but polite (she is Canadian, after all), demand for a living wage, more coverage, increased attendance and decent support staff and facilities in which to play.
Everybody knows that the Canadian women’s hockey game is phenomenally good. And everybody’s got an opinion about what needs to happen to build a league that matches the quality and intensity of its players.
Anastasia Bucsis, host of the Player’s Own Voice podcast, leads Hefford to detail the latest volleys in the professional women’s hockey players’ struggle.
Like the CBC Sports’ Player’s Own Voice essay series, POV podcast lets athletes speak to Canadians about issues from a personal perspective. To listen to Jayna Hefford or earlier guests this season, including Christine Sinclair and Jennfier Jones, subscribe for free on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Tune In or wherever you get your other podcasts.
According to her peers, teammates and adversaries, Jennifer Jones is the greatest female curler of all time.
According to Anastasia Bucsis, host of Player’s Own Voice, ‘J- Jones’ is a strong contender for greatest podcast guest of all time — no matter what Ben Hebert might say in his own defence.
The Manitoba skip recently negotiated the biggest free-agent transaction in curling history, bringing Lisa Weagle into her rink as a fifth. Curling fans were taken aback by the move: How much firepower can a team possibly have if Lisa Weagle is the fifth?
Jones answers that question neatly on the podcast. The true value of the fifth is best revealed at the Olympics, so why wait to the last second to build the team that is going for gold on the biggest stage?
Jones also addresses her famous intensity, and helps us understand how being competitive can be compartmentalized. She insists that her focus on winning melts away when she’s off the ice. Fierce and friendly seems like an oxymoron, but Jones is living proof it can happen.
Like the CBC Sports’ Player’s Own Voice essay series, POV podcast lets athletes speak to Canadians about issues from a personal perspective. To listen to Jennifer Jones, or last week’s guests Christine Sinclair, subscribe for free on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Tune In or wherever you get your other podcasts.
Anastasia Bucsis, podcast host and two-time Olympic speed skater, is not one to sit idle, even during circumstances such as this. So, as we continue to gather conversations for the upcoming season three of Player’s Own Voice, we are also testing our ability to work remotely and responsibly.
With the whiplash changes in Tokyo 2020 Olympic news, POV podcast turns to Diana Matheson, soccer star and Canadian athlete representive. The veteran team leader discusses how her friends, teammates and professional sports colleagues are coping.
Matheson herself is fresh off a two week quarantine — the result of a National Team trip to a tournament in France. She’s seeing a mixture of reactions, athlete by athlete, to the decision to postpone the 2020 Olympics. She sees pride and immediate relief that Canada led the charge to postpone the Tokyo Games … but that feeling is slowly giving way to more complex questions and reactions, and Matheson brings some of those to the fore.
It’s a quick check in, a snapshot of hectic recent days. Player’s Own Voice will be back to regular weekly episodes in a few weeks.
Feeling alone is a common theme on Matt Burke’s podcast about mental health.
The 24-year-old started Matty’s Mental Health Podcast about 10 months ago and since then has recorded 21 episodes in his Charlottetown home, covering a wide range of topics including his own story.
“The purpose of the podcast is to provide a platform where people can share their stories with mental health.”
He said a lot of people feel like they have to fight their mental health battles on their own, and through the podcast, he wants to show them they don’t have to.
On the podcast he has spoken to people about things such as depression, anxiety and how concussions can affect a person’s mental health.
“I’ve had counsellors on there. They talked about mental health from their side,” he said.
“A lot of interesting people. I’ve learned a lot from them.”
Burke said he is not a mental health professional “by any stretch of the imagination,” but he has had his own struggles with mental health and revealed his story on Episode 9.
When Burke was 20, his girlfriend took her own life.
The couple was having a difficult time and while he was out one night his cellphone died as the two were texting back and forth.
I just knew right away that I was just looking to make a positive out of it somehow.— Matt Burke
The following morning he was cleaning off his car to go check on her when her parents pulled into the driveway and told him his girlfriend had killed herself.
“It was just absolute terror,” Burke said.
He couldn’t wrap his head around it. He was a mess and he got sick to his stomach.
“I completely lost it. I went into a rage. I punched the ground. I went into my house and I punched holes in the wall,” he said.
His girlfriend’s family insisted he come with them for the day and he went. He said they talked him down from his emotions.
“I was lucky they took me in right away and treated me as family,” he said.
Now, with the podcast he is hoping to provide similar support by discussing mental health with others.
When you do tell your story it really does help.— Mark Burke
“I just knew right away that I was just looking to make a positive out of it somehow,” he said.
“Like ‘How can I help? How can I move this forward? Take this experience and help somebody else that was in the same situation she was in,'” Burke said.
He said he wasn’t sure what form that help would take until he found podcasting and decided to start inviting Islanders to discuss mental wellness.
‘Anxious, like constantly’
Mark Burke — no relation to Matt — was on the latest episode of the podcast. He played hockey on P.E.I. for about 16 years, from squirts to junior, he said.
In December of 2016 he suffered a concussion and returned to the ice after two weeks. Two-and-a-half months later he suffered another concussion. That’s when he realized they were taking a toll on his mental health.
“Anxious, like constantly. I’d go through bouts of depression from it. Just almost felt sort of stuck in a fight or flight state,” Mark said.
“Mood swings would randomly happen. I would go from somewhat happy, to mad as crazy over something silly to almost being in tears and that could all happen in a span of 15 minutes.”
While he was experiencing this, he was going through changes in his life and had just moved out on his own, so he attributed the mental health issues to that.
He said he didn’t really think his mental health was impacted by the concussions until he heard former Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas talk about how his mental health was affected by concussions.
Traumatic brain injuries left undiagnosed & uncared for can rob you of your quality of life<br><br>Isolation, impulse control issues, our sense of self & the way we view the world are just a few of the symptoms<br><br>Thx Tim for speaking ur truth<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Bruins?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Bruins</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/NHL?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#NHL</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/TBI?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#TBI</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/concussion?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#concussion</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/mentalhealth?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#mentalhealth</a> <a href=”https://t.co/ItGsDVKE6E”>pic.twitter.com/ItGsDVKE6E</a>
Mark only told his parents about a month ago and the family went to see a mental health professional together.
“He referred me to a neurologist, so we are in line for that,” Mark said.
Mark also struggles with small talk following the concussions and appearing onthe podcast was a way of addressing that issue.
“That felt real good, just to kind of air it all out,” he said. “I got to keep moving forward and make myself better every day to kind of set a good example — that when you do tell your story it really does help.”
Mark said he was able to relate to Matt knowing he also struggled with mental health.
‘Tornado of emotions’
The year after his girlfriend died Matt was in shock. He couldn’t sleep or focus.
“It is kind of a tornado of emotions,” he said. “You know, a big thing for me, I started therapy right away and that was huge for me. That probably saved my life.”
Matt said just talking about what was going through his mind helped.
I think by them sharing it’ll just benefit anyone who listens.— Matt Burke
One thing he started to do, that he still does, is go on hikes with his dogs for hours at a time.
“I just work through everything that is going on in my mind,” he said. “It’s kind of like a meditation time, and I always felt a little bit better.”
Matt said he hopes his girlfriend would be proud of the work he is doing now.
He said if what he’s doing helps one person, “it’ll be worth it for me.”
Gaining confidence from others
Ronnie McPhee, a community liaison for the city of Charlottetown, was a recent guest on the podcast.
McPhee said listening to Matt and his guests open up about their mental health troubles inspired him and gave him the confidence to take his turn at the microphone.
When McPhee was younger he struggled with his mental health, and at one point, he spent time in the hospital.
“It gave me the opportunity to put myself in a comparable setting to other people who had challenges like this,” he said.
“It just showed me how I could offer up my advantages to support others.”
The main thing I try to do is get out of the way and let them tell their story.— Matt Burke
Being able to talk and help others deal with their mental health struggles has helped him cope with his own, McPhee said.
“That was always a good feeling to me. That’s kind of how I found my way of coping with the challenges I kind of grew up with,” he said.
Guests keep coming
Burke hasn’t had to look for guests very often because many people have asked if they can be part of the podcast.
“I’m just like honoured to do it and I am so thankful for all the guests that reach out to me,” he said. “I know how hard it is to tell your story.”
Bringing these things to light and being more compassionate about it is 100 per cent the way to go in the future.— Matt Burke
He said organizing a traumatic story, to “go back to that point and really dive into it,” can be difficult.
“The main thing I try to do is get out of the way and let them tell their story and I think by them sharing it’ll just benefit anyone who listens who is going through the same thing,” he said.
“And even people who aren’t going through the same thing, just to understand what people go through.”
One takeaway he hopes listeners walk away with is that mental health issues are common.
Having lost someone very close to suicide, Matt does worry about some of the people he interviews.
“I never try to force anyone to come on,” Burke said. “I want to make sure they are in a good enough place to come on.”
When referring to his girlfriend’s death, Burke said “mental illness took her life.”
He said in the last few years the discussion around mental health has become more compassionate.
“Bringing these things to light and being more compassionate about it is 100 per cent the way to go in the future.”
Matty’s Mental Health Podcast can be found on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and YouTube.
Anyone needing emotional support, crisis intervention or help with problem solving in P.E.I. can contact The Island Helpline at 1-800-218-2885, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
When she was 15 years old, Keely Shaw had it all figured out.
Hockey would be the through line on a life plan consisting of high performance competition, scouting, scholarships, Olympics — the sky was the limit.
So when Shaw, in Grade 9, was thrown from her beloved horse while she was out on the prairies, sustaining brain injuries and partial paralysis, her first reaction was furious resentment at the sport from which she was suddenly denied.
It took a few years, a ton of discipline, and working through significant psychological setbacks, but Shaw eventually rediscovered high-performance sport.
Shaw is a world class road and track Paralympian cyclist now. And when she isn’t pounding the pedals, she’s also chasing her PhD.
Believe it or not, Shaw is also studying the performance benefits of dark chocolate at high altitude.
The plan always was to be competing at Tokyo 2020, but Shaw just never imagined this particular path would be the one to take her there.
Player’s Own Voice podcast host Anastasia Bucsis meets the Canadian Paralympian as she sets her sights on the next world championship races in Milton, Ont.
Like the CBC Sports’ Player’s Own Voice essay series, POV podcast lets athletes speak to Canadians about issues from a personal perspective. To listen to Keely Shaw and earlier guests this season, subscribe for free on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Tune In or wherever you get your other podcasts.
Dylan Moscovitch enjoyed a long and storied career as a pairs figure skater, but he’s in his early 30s now. Even though he’s still a young man, he knew two years ago he was done with competition.
So Moscovitch did some reflecting: he had spent half a lifetime learning how to be an elite athlete. What could he do with those hard-won skills in act 2 of his life? Physical performance? Check. Ability to memorize, rehearse and sell gestures and moods? Check. He was comfortable in front of audiences and clusters of judges. He figured it out pretty quickly — he had nailed most of the core skills for professional acting.
But as he says to Anastasia Bucsis on the Player’s Own Voice podcast this week, there was an unexpected wrinkle. Athletes are trained to perform with confidence, while actors need to perform with vulnerability. How do you learn that?
Reinventing yourself is what it’s all about on this week’s podcast.
Like the CBC Sports’ Player’s Own Voice essay series, POV podcast lets athletes speak to Canadians about issues from a personal perspective. To listen to Dylan Moscovitch and earlier guests this season, subscribe for free on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Tune In or wherever you get your other podcasts.
It is hard to think of a more famous 9.84 seconds in Canadian sports history.
It took a lifetime of confident concentration to bring sprinter Donovan Bailey to the line for the race that made him king of the world.
Anastasia Bucsis, host of Player’s Own Voice Podcast, explores self-assurance with Bailey. Without that confidence, track history could very well have been different.
Bucsis and Bailey zero in on one race to talk it through, because the thing we may forget, looking back at his triumphant 100 metres in the 1996 Olympics, was just how agonizing the race was for competitors. It took an eternity to get underway. False start followed false start. The disqualified Linford Christie even refused to clear the blocks for a while. But through it all, Bailey kept his composure and his certainty of victory.
He gives full credit for that confidence to his parents. Which is not to say they were stroking his ego. On the contrary, when Bailey was breaking world records, his folks often didn’t even choose to attend, and both loving parents maintained a cool attitude about their son’s growing fame and accomplishments.
Much like the CBC Sports’ Player’s Own Voice essay series, POV podcast lets athletes speak to Canadians about issues from a personal perspective. To listen to Donovan Bailey and earlier guests this season, subscribe for free on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Tune In or wherever you get your other podcasts.