WRITTEN BY ASHLEY DIER | ACADEMY OF LIONS MEDIA TEAM | TORONTO
Women in sport. Over the next few weeks I will profile three different women all with various roles within the world of sport, all powerful, strong, influential, athletes. "Women in sport" it's a conversation begging to be had, not only for me personally but for the community at large. Skewed societal views and misconceptions are not going to disappear on their own, we need to open up the dialog. First up, Jenny Thompson.
She sits relaxed and at ease, her back leaned against the wall, her posture strong, she subtly stretches every few minutes. I manage to grab her between classes on a busy Saturday, the buzz from the gym below, audible but not distracting, serves as the perfect backdrop to the conversation we are about to have.
Jenny Thompson, a self proclaimed wearer of many hats, is busy. Jenny is certified in CrossFit, an NTC coach, a Queen's and York University grad, a mobility and injury prevention specialist, a private coach/personal trainer, an athlete (she currently plays hockey and practices Muay Thai), she trains everyday, she's in chiropractic school full time, she runs her own blog (www.smallbutmightyfitness.com) and is a regular contributor to various other blogs and constantly acts as a positive role model within the community and for the all members at Academy of Lions. Jenny gets things done, "The busier I am the more I get done, that's the way I've always been," she said.
Jenny declares on her website, Small But Mighty, "although I may be small in stature, I’m mighty in strength and spirit," and I couldn't agree more. Jenny is energetic and happy and despite her BUSY schedule she is attentive and engaging during conversation, she is present, grounded and relaxed.
Jenny has been active her whole life, as a child she was involved in a different sport every day of the week. She remembers playing hockey with her brother and his friends while all the girls her age were playing with strollers and dolls. Jenny wanted to play goalie, she wanted to be Felix the Cat. Jenny remembers receiving a sewing machine and an ice cream maker for Christmas one year, gifts from her mother, but all she wanted to do was play hockey. She shares a stinging memory "I was at the community center taking a cake decorating course my mom put me in. It overlooked an ice rink, with kids playing hockey down below, I just stood there looking out the window, eating icing, living vicariously with the kids down on the ice." Growing up, Jenny was frequently called a tomboy. Despite her mother's aversion to hockey when Jenny was a child, at the age of 26 she started playing, declaring "take that world, I'm gonna do it anyways."
The gender/sport stereotypes disappeared for Jenny when she played varsity sports. She was recognized for her athleticism not her gender and won numerous athletic awards. It wasn't until after university that the stereotypes began to reemerge. When she began doing CrossFit Jenny would hear "oh you're a beast" and various other negatively associated words. But within the last few years Jenny has noticed a change, "In the last few years women's fitness is beginning to be reframed. So instead of people being 'you're a beast, you're masculine, you do all these male sports', now it's like 'you're fit and you're strong and you can use your body and you don't just have to be skinny anymore', which I am unbelievably delighted about."
Due in part to both her personal experiences growing up and to her active role as both a community leader and coach Jenny feels a responsibility to other females and athletes at large. "Through social media, through my communication with other members through clients, people who are looking for advice, I always want to promote athletics and training as a means of empowerment,” adding “I never want to put pressure on someone to simply be training for ascetic means." Jenny pauses for a moment and adds, "I like through all the influence that I have my emphasis is always on proper technique and movements that fit your goal, and choosing a trainer or a means of training that is conducive to your goals and that is evidence based. I always want training to be empowering. Yes it's going to be challenging, it's going to be hard but when you come out of that session you know you've achieved at least a minor step towards that goal that you've set for yourselves."
Jenny's depth of knowledge leaves me in awe. Her personality is captivating and energizing. After chatting with her I understand how she is able to do as much as she does, she is driven beyond belief. Fuelled by experiences both from her youth and adulthood Jenny betters both herself and her community every day, her sights set on her future goals, (to be a chiropractor for a professional sports team and to work with youth in sport).
As we head down the stairs the music from the second floor stops, signalling the end of a class. It's time for Jenny to teach NTC. She bounces through the room, energized, greeting familiar faces. Before I realized it she's disappeared around the corner, off to teach, guide and inspire. Jenny Thompson truly is mighty.
To check out Jenny's blog Small But Mighty, click here.