Erin McLeod launches a goal kick at the 2015 Women's World Cup. IQREMIX/CC WIKIMEDIA

grew up playing soccer. I was four when I first joined a local soccer club, I was nine when I started playing goalkeeper for my house-league team, and I was 12 when I began playing competitively.

Ever since I could remember, I’ve looked up to the Canadian Women’s National Team goalkeeper extraordinaire, Erin McLeod.

McLeod has always been somewhat of an idol of mine. She first began playing for the national team in 2002 when she was only 19 years old. Since then, she’s played in 116 national team games, 112 of which she was the starting keeper. In addition to her athletic career, McLeod is also an artist, singer, and entrepreneur.

As a goalkeeper, McLeod has been under tremendous pressure to perform. Making a single mistake could cost the team a game. This is precisely what happened in the 2012 London Olympic Games, when McLeod was called for a six-second violation — essentially, wasting time when you have the ball. This led to a penalty shot that cost Canada the game — and our shot at an Olympic gold medal.

I can imagine that it’s tough to bounce back from that.

Yet McLeod always does. I was thrilled to learn that, at the veteran age of 35, McLeod came back from her third knee surgery to play for Canada in a friendly match with Norway last month. Who knows? Maybe we’ll have her for another Olympics.

But it’s not just McLeod’s athletic and artistic ability that inspires me. In 2015, she publicly came out as gay. It takes immense bravery to come out when you’re already in the public eye, and I admire her for doing so. I’m certain that she has inspired many young women who are afraid of coming out, fearing possible repercussions.

Whatever McLeod’s future holds — in the net or not — I’m certain that she will continue to inspire young women to overcome obstacles and be ourselves.

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