Rosie
Maclennan

Canadian Olympic Athlete for Trampoline

Blog

  • August
  • 8
  • 2013

A few months ago, I had a conversation with some people at Dove. They wanted to chat with me about what the key things were that helped me push through all the times I wanted to quit, what kept me in sport growing up and what was it that made me, in their words, “unstoppable.” They asked me about times of doubt, times that I felt insecure or uncertain.

It was a very interesting conversation- talking about the struggles and challenges that have to be overcome can be really difficult, you have to be willing to let yourself be a little vulnerable to admit that you have had time of weakness. It is such a strong practice in our culture to hide those weaknesses and now I wonder, why? Everyone has them, if we acknowledge them, share them and learn from them. Though it was a challenging conversation to have with, well, strangers… I realized I truly wanted to share my experiences because maybe, just maybe it would help someone push through their self-doubts and keep them in the activity that they are truly passionate about.

Growing up, I was not the most confident kid. I was pretty quiet and, like most kids, I wanted to fit in. I went through a number of times where I got frustrated because I couldn’t spend as much time hanging out with my friends, I spent a lot of time in the gym. I remember sitting in the car with my mom driving me to training, like she did more times that I can possibly count or thank her for, and I felt ready to quit.

My mom has always been pretty good at asking questions and probing to get to the real root of the issue. She is also pretty wise. In the car, when I told her that I felt done, she turned to me (and whether it was her being supportive, knowing me better than I knew myself or her version of reverse psychology I will never know) she said, “Ok. If you don’t want to do it anymore, you don’t have to.” In that moment, when I had the option… I realized it was the last thing I wanted.

My family and my friends have played a huge role in helping me get to where I am. Like any path, the path of an elite athlete is not an easy one. With any big goal comes some pretty big struggles along the way and it is the support system around you, the friends, the family, the mentors that get you through. For me, anything I have come up against, my mom has been a huge part in getting me through. In my sport, our leotards don’t leave much to the imagination and I was never the smallest one out there. When I told my mom my concerns about my body, she helped me by asking, “What is your goal- to be the smallest one out there or to be the best trampolinist you can be?” She helped me realize the value of a healthy and functional body. That my legs were powerful so that I could jump high.

Many of the lessons I learned through sport and the value that I have gained through sport I am only just realizing now. Sport gave me something to be passionate about. The trampoline gym helped me find my voice and helped me develop confidence. It helped me learn the value of struggle and the opportunities you can have when you face a challenge. It helped give me a positive perspective. These lessons that I have learned (which there are more than I can fit into one blog) are more valuable than any gold medal you can win and there is no way that I would have come realize the true value of sport and finding your passion without the support of the people around me.

The reason I am so excited to be working with Dove on their Girls Unstoppable campaign is because they realize the value of girls being a part of something they love and the impact that mentors and supporters can have on girls. Their mission to start those conversations and keep girls in the activities they love really resonates with me.

So, to anyone reading this, I encourage you to look around you at the people in your life, especially the young girls out there, encourage them, support them and have those conversations. They can be tough to start, which is why Dove has created a tool to help get the doors open. Once you do, it is worth it because once you do, you too can help make Girls Unstoppable!

Click here to access the incredible resources that Dove has created to help!

http://www.dove.ca/en/Social-Mission/Self-Esteem-Resources/Self-Esteem-Guide-for-Moms-and-Mentors-of-Girls-8-15.aspx

 

  • August
  • 4
  • 2013

Today marks one year since I had the honour of representing Canada in the sport that I love at the London Olympic Games. It is hard to explain the pride that I felt wearing the maple leaf, standing next to my mentor, teammate and good friend Karen, as well as my coach Dave. I was living my dream and loving every second of it with the support of family, friends and an entire country. For that opportunity, for every opportunity I get to represent our country, and for the support that I receive from so many around me, I cannot express enough thanks.

The Olympics have captivated me since I was a young kid- the magic of the opening ceremonies and feeling the athletes’ passion and determination as you watch them on the field of play. For me, the Olympic experience is about more than just sport- it is as much about the journey. It is a physical, mental and emotional experience- a truly human experience. Standing on top of the podium one year ago today was such a powerful moment because of what it represents and I imagine it is different for every athlete.

I am not sure even a year later I can put it into words but I will try to express what that moment truly represented and meant to me.

Stepping on the podium showed me that every experience we have – good, bad, challenging – is necessary and worthwhile. It showed me that each time we fall down, each time we make a mistake, it is not a failure but an opportunity to learn and to grow. It is important to embrace each challenge we face for what it can teach us. It proved to me that as long as I breathe, I have the strength to make it through. It reminded me of the value of the people around me- my anchors – because no matter what happens in life, these anchors never change. To me, this thought was a powerful grounding notion that helped me more than anything else in my journey. Stepping onto the podium proved to me the importance of working with those around me because nobody can do it on their own. It represented every ounce of energy that an entire network of people contributed to get me there. The journey leading into London, I struggled with believing that anything was possible with hard work and perseverance but stepping onto the podium showed me the importance of always believing in the possibility. Even though there is no guarantee when you start down any path, having the courage and willingness to try in a situation where there is no guarantee is worthwhile because along the way, finding and following your passion and loving the journey hold more value than any potential outcome. You never know where a journey will take you but if you enjoy what you do, each and every day, the value of that journey is worth it.

This past year has been a whirlwind filled with experiences and people that I cherish as much as that moment standing on top of the podium- with that, I continue to live my dream. I try to remember this lesson in all parts of life. Going forward, I am excited to be in the gym with that same fire and motivation I felt leading toward London as I train for the Pan Am Games in 2015 and Rio 2016, ready to embrace the opportunities and challenges that go hand-in-hand with that journey.

  • July
  • 18
  • 2013

It is still 721 days away but the TO2015 Pan Am Games are at the front of my mind today! I had the opportunity to join CBC sports broadcasters Scott Russell and Carly Argo and Paralympic basketball player Tyler Miller at CBC Kids Day for the unveiling of the mascot!

Over the past few months, students from schools across the province submitted designs for the mascot for their chance to see their design come to life. Once all the submissions were viewed, 6 were selected and there was a final vote. It was a long anticipated announcement but today, at the CBC building downtown filled with kids, we all got the chance to see PACHI the Porcupine for the first time!!

 

It was such a blast to hang out with the young karate athletes, to lead a Pan Am Cheer and to see the TO2015 come to life!

 

Mascots are the face and the personality of a Games. For athletes, they are a common figure that symbolize the event and can bring us comfort and some fun. I remember in Beijing, I was lined up for finals. Needless to say, I was shaking I was so nervous! I was looking for anything to distract me from the intensity.. anything! In training, I have a habit of awkwardly dancing. In that moment, I looked up and saw the video of the Beijing mascots dancing around so, naturally, I started imitating them- dancing around and clapping my hands, probably looking a little bit on the silly side but for me, it was a sense of comfort that helped ease the tension that I was feeling.

The great thing about Pachi is his ability to connect with kids. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Connecting with kids- inspiring them to find something they can be passionate about whether it is sport, culture, the arts- anything! Pachi will be going around to so many communities over the next two years and will be able to share not only his story, but the story of the Pan Am Games, brining TO2015 to life to everyone he comes across so look our for Pachi the Porcupine in a town near you!!

 

 

 

 

  • April
  • 4
  • 2013

One moment can change your life, but that does not mean that it has to change you. Brett is a force to be reckoned with- always has been and always will be.

The entire trampoline community watched as his hard work, dedication and passion for double mini earned him a rise on Canada’s double mini trampoline scene. After starting at the Kingston Aeros at the age of 9, he moved out west for his first year of University and to train. Just over 6 months ago, on October 1, 2012, 10 days before leaving for Australia for an international competition, he had a life-changing fall during training. Today, he is defeating a C5C6 incomplete spinal cord injury and facing it with a courage beyond his years.

Today, he is fighting tirelessly to get every ounce of movement. I sent him a message a few weeks after his injury and he replied talking about how he had dreams of being a Paralympic athlete and was already looking into new sports. Once and athlete, always an athlete! I don’t think that mentality ever leaves you. Every day, he and his family complete hours upon hours of therapy, muscle stimulation, acupuncture (with over 30 needles covering his body).

If you want a definition for courage, it is Brett. If you want a definition for determination, it is Brett. He does not hide that this has been an unbelievable challenge thrown his way that at times is overwhelming, scary, stressful, sad- everything you can imagine and more all wrapped in one but the one thing that always amazes me is his strength, courage and outright stubbornness to not let this life changing incident change who he is or get in the way of him living his life. He was tossed on a new life path, one that is still uncertain. He is relentless in his efforts to gain back mobility, he has constantly kept his goals in site and has a positive attitude towards this uphill challenge, laughing with his twin sister, Bridget, the rest of his family and friends along the way.

(Video made by Bronte)

Very few can fathom, very few can relate to what he and his family are going through but everyone can support them. Help Brett and his family focus on working together towards achieving his goals, help Brett and his family keep the laughter!

#SupportBrett2013

If you would like to contribute to a fund supporting Brett:

CASH donations can be made at any Royal Bank in Canada. Please inform the teller that you would like to contribute to the Barbara Fuller account in trust for the Brett Babcock Personal Tragedy Fund. You must mention Barbara Fuller’s name.

Thank you everyone!

  • March
  • 4
  • 2013

I have mentioned West Point in a number of my posts. West Point is the most challenged places in Liberia and is considered one of the most dangerous slums here in Monrovia. It has the worst living conditions I have ever witnessed and it’s impossible to fathom living here. There are over 75,000 people living on top of each other in tin structures. The pollution on this small peninsula is so bad that the land has actually started eroding into the water. 70% of the population is under 17 years old.

We visited this community a second time to have a session with a different group of kids  from various parts of the community. After getting out of our van, we wandered through the narrow alleyways. I am sure the citizens of this community were wondering what the hell we were doing there but as soon as you said “hello” to them or introduced yourself as you passed (essentially treat them with the same dignity and respect  you would want), their faces lit up. They immediately said hello back and would respond, “Yeah, hello! How are you?!”

As we got closer to the sand field, a designated space on which the citizens are not allowed to build, you could hear the yells and cheers of hundreds of kids. I looked around and saw, amidst the garbage, dozens of groups of kids in circles or groups playing games, led by their community coaches. I quickly ran to one of the groups and joined in the game, getting a number of curious glances from the young children (and a number running to grab my hands first) as the coach explained the game, “Happy Harry”. The game was simple: you stand in two lines, with one person in the middle. Everyone on the lines were sad and the only person who was happy was the one standing in the middle. Then this lone individual would yell out, “HAPPY HAPPY HARRY!” and the two lines would have to dart and switch sides. Those who were touched were in the middle and became happy and could then tag the sad ones in the next round. You could hear the screams of joy and see the eyes light up as the game progressed and by the end, everyone was in the middle. The point of the game was: “Each and every one of you can make those around you happy. Spread the joy!”

I was so engaged with the games and watching the kids with pure pleasure on their faces, all connected with one another, that during a game I stepped right in human poop. All the kids around me noticed and started pointing, laughing and yelling, “You step in poo, you step in poo poo!” while the leaders quickly covered it with sand. I was grossed out for about a second before I realized… this is where they play every day. These are the conditions in which they live. They don’t have a playground that they can go to; they use garbage as toys, building balls out of plastic bags. I started looking around more and the joy that these kids were experiencing, the lessons they were learning, and the engagement that they were getting… all of this would not happen in this community without Right To Play. They had interaction with these incredible role models, the community leaders. Just from talking to the community leaders, you can feel their passion and love for the kids. You feel the need for Right to Play to offer these kids some hope. Every single one of them has an incredible story but one thing is consistent among all of them: the amount that they care for the children of their community and the acknowledgement that it is the responsibility of everyone, including them, to protect them and provide them with opportunity and hope. That is what keeps them coming back each and every week and keeps them asking the Right to Play office what more they can do.

There were still hundreds of kids huddling around the circles, in torn clothes if they had clothes at all, desperate to be involved. There was one girl in particular who started following me. She could not have been more than 3, with these big brown eyes staring up at me and every time I looked down, she would giggle. I became so overwhelmed by this feeling that I wanted to do more: I had to do more to get more resources to this community and other communities like it. At first, you might wonder what play can do for these kids here but kids are the same around the world. Kids love to play. It’s a human right and when you introduce the opportunity to learn using play as a tool to teach, it becomes a very powerful tool. It is so eye-opening, mind-boggling and life-changing. This experience is difficult to put into words but I would not trade this experience for anything. When I go home (which is far too soon), I know my need and desire to make an impact will stay with me.

  • March
  • 1
  • 2013

I spoke in a recent blog about the power of talk, getting the conversation going and sharing your experiences with others. When you share your story wholeheartedly,  it truly touches people in a profound way. I witnessed the power of conversation and connection today and each time I am reminded of its value.

Once again, so much happened today but there were a couple of things that show the power of discussion, conversation and listening to one another.

We started today by attending a play session in New Kru Town. The children in the group I joined were a bit older. With each game played in Right to Play programming, there is a skill or value embedded in the game. After playing, the group comes together and discusses what they learned, why that lesson might be important and how it applies to their everyday life. For example, there is a game where two people stand in the centre of a circle of people. The circle of people are close together, very tightly connected and there are 1-3 people outside of the circle. Those outside of the circle try and break into the centre of the circle to the two individuals in the centre. This game is used to represent the immune system and fosters conversations around protecting yourself from malaria or HIV/AIDS. It can also be used to demonstrate protection of the child from harm and this creates conversation around what rights the child has, what these children and youth can do to help themselves and those around them.

One game we played with an older group involved the community leader making statements and once the statement was made, each of us had to run to one of 4 sections. Each section was marked agree, disagree, still thinking and I don’t know.

Some examples of statements included in this game were:

“All boys are lazy.”

“Only girls care for children.”

Each of these fostered conversations about discrimination and stereotypes. The one statement that led to the most heated debate was, “Only girls should play with dolls.”

The group was very much divided between agree and disagree – with the majority on disagree. It was incredible to see this group go back and forth, making their statements and arguments in an articulated manner:

“Boys playing with dolls go against tradition here, it would not be right.”

“Boys should not play with baby dolls because it is the women’s job to care for the baby.”

“Boys should play with dolls if they want, we should not discriminate or prevent people from doing what they want.”

“Boys should play with baby dolls so that the first time they hold a real baby, they have some experience. It is their responsibility to care for the babies as well.”

“Saying boys cannot play with baby dolls is like saying girls cannot play sports, maybe that was tradition before but traditions change.”

I’m paraphrasing and including only a few of the statements made but coming together as a group and discussing the activity, the students said that they felt empowered playing the game because they had the opportunity to speak and the opportunity to be heard. They also felt like they had a right to speak and have their voices heard and were able to learn about others’ views. They also learned that discussion is a very effective way of communicating about disagreements but that it is also okay to disagree.

Later that day (after participating in another play session in Clara Town), we joined a youth forum discussing drugs and drug abuse, a prominent issue in communities such as Clara Town and West Point. Attending the session was: Clara Town’s community chairman, a member from the Youth and Sports Ministry, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Youth Council for Clara Town consisting of about 20 young males and only one female.

They discussed what factors are responsible for the high rate of drug abuse in their community. They listed an entire range of causes including lack of education, lack of self-esteem, experimentation, normalization of drug use among certain groups, addiction remaining from war time use, using to cope with trauma either from the civil war or from trauma that has been incurred since and cyclical processes that pass from one generation to the next.

Then came the question about the way forward and two individuals really stood out to me. First was a member of the youth council who said something that seems like common sense but that often gets overlooked: dealing with the underlying root cause. He spoke about how it was not enough to merely take punitive action or removing certain individuals from the community but create initiatives to address the actual cause of the problem or you would only be creating a band-aid fix at best. It seems so simple but we do this back home too. We shy away from the actual causes of particular problems because there is not a simple solution. The solution, like the root cause of the problem, will be more complex in nature.

The representative from the Youth & Sport Ministry then spoke about how the solutions need to be implemented at all levels, from the smallest unit to larger policy level interventions. He spoke about how the youth in the room had the power to make a change in their community, starting with small changes and advocacy efforts by looking to families and members of the community by creating social support networks. Policies and large level changes can be slow bureaucratic processes but that did not mean that change wouldn’t happen at that level, nor did it mean that change had to wait, it started with each and every one of them.

The forum was in a community centre within Clara Town. It was a hot day and after two hours, you could see that peoples’ attention was starting to wane. Then ROCH introduced the next speaker to make their remarks, “an individual who had at one point in their life struggled with alcohol and drug abuse then overcame it to become a champion”. At that point, Clara stood up and immediately, every single person in the room leaned forward. They held onto every single word Clara spoke about her extremely challenging upbringing which led her to start smoking and drinking at age 12 and within a few years, had her spending the majority of her time on the streets, using drugs without direction or any positive influence until she saw the Olympic Games. The power of sport, positive people in her life and the urge to be someone better brought her back to life and completely changed the path she was taking. The people in that room could be those change makers, they could be that positive influence for those in the community. Nowhere in the world is free from struggle and challenge. While our struggles and challenges may differ, change starts with you and you have the power to make a difference even if it is only in one person’s life.

One of the most incredible things about this trip is witnessing the circumstances here, the conditions in which these people live and seeing so many people looking out for each other and protecting the well-being of those around them. Many of the community leaders do not have jobs but still volunteer their time to implement Right To Play programs because when these kids have nothing else, they at least have this chance to come together to meet other children and have a positive role model. It makes me think about how at home, I am guilty of this too. We often get so caught up in our own lives that we forget to pay attention to those around us. We don’t take the time to notice or learn about the people around us. It is so important because when you have nothing else, you need the people in your life.

As the saying in the Right To Play office in Liberia goes: “Look after yourself, look after one another.”