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‘U of T: Women in Sport’ — a new support community for Varsity Blues athletes

President and vice-president of new club share inspiration, goals
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COURTESY OF LAUREN DUNDEE
COURTESY OF LAUREN DUNDEE

This year, Varsity Blues athlete, Lauren Dundee, formed a new club aiming to create a community for women athletes — U of T: Women in Sport. Dundee, a second-year student majoring in peace, conflict and justice studies, is on the Varsity Blues women’s water polo team.

The Varsity spoke with Dundee, the president of the club, and Sara Sutherland, water polo athlete and vice-president of the club, about their aspirations and vision for the club.

Goals and vision 

“Varsity Blues does a great job of providing support to all athletes. But just for women-identifying athletes in particular, [there are] other struggles that we go through behind the scenes… They’ve become so normalized over the years because that’s just how it is in the world of sport,” Dundee said. 

She continued, “They don’t really get talked about. And so there’s quite a lot [of] people struggling in silence. I wanted to create a club that provided a support network and a community for [women] athletes going through that at U of T.”

Having been involved in sport from a very young age, Dundee and Sutherland recognized the challenges that women and, in particular, women student athletes face. 

“[U of T: Women in Sport] also works to provide an environment in which we can discuss issues that are particularly prevalent within the women-identifying athlete community such as: body dysmorphia, mental health, inequality, life after sport, time management, careers in professional sport, respect and unequal recognition,” wrote Sutherland in an email to The Varsity.

Events this past year 

The club has hosted a number of guest speakers, who spoke on issues ranging from coping strategies for women student athletes to disordered eating, abuse and maltreatment, and athlete retirement.

During exam season, the executive team hosted office hours that members could join to set study goals and to study together. The executive board also presented at the SheMoves conference, which was hosted in honour of International Women’s Day.

In addition to guest speaker events, U of T: Women in Sport used social media to highlight the efforts and achievements of women athletes and teams across U of T. In the fall semester, the club introduced ‘Teammate Tuesdays,’ spotlighting an athlete on Instagram for being a great friend, teammate, or role model every Tuesday.

In the winter semester, U of T: Women in Sport introduced ‘Spotlight Saturdays,’ each of which featured a particular women’s sports team and their accomplishments.

“What we really wanted to do with our social media was celebrate the achievement [of women athletes] and give women’s sports teams a platform… where we can go, ‘Look, this is what they’re doing,’ ” said Dundee.

Looking ahead 

When the world gets back to its ‘new normal,’ the club hopes to host post-game interviews with women’s sports teams and to highlight their performance and efforts when they play in games.

U of T: Women in Sport also hopes to implement a program to mentor girls in sport across the GTA and show them what life is like as a student athlete at university.

Dundee said, “Fingers crossed, everything will kind of be back to normal next semester, and we can start working toward all of that stuff from there.”  

Disclosure: Agarwal is an athlete on the Varsity Blues women’s squash team.