A long-time hockey player, Roberta Bartolo talks about being black in the hockey world, her time on the University of Manitoba team, and about conquering difficult tasks.
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[00:00:00] Music/Man’s Voice: Welcome to Sami Jo’s Podcast. The show that is all about gaining insights from top performers as they share what made their teams successful and translate those ideas into your everyday lives and businesses.
Here is your host, 3 time Olympian, professional speaker, author and entrepreneur …Sami Jo Small.
Sami Jo: I can’t wait for you to meet my next guest, Roberta Bartolo. A friend for over 30 years, we chat about her path to sport as one of the only two black families in small town Kenora, ON.
It’s a fascinating interview as we wind along her journey to playing at the University of Manitoba helping them to varsity status.
We talk about why representation matters.
Incredibly well spoken and thoughtful, I’m grateful to have had her as a hockey school instructor for more than 20 years.
Her breadth of knowledge and her quest for learning provides this conversation with many nuggets of wisdom that will leave you wanting to try new things and push your own limits to achieve happiness.
Enjoy this interview with current hockey player, I don’t say former, because despite being in her 50’s she continues to find joy in the game. Please enjoy my chat with Roberta Bartolo.
Sami Jo: Throughout my life you’ve been really a constant, somebody I know that just cares so deeply about me and really was a real role model for me really my entire life but more than that really an amazing friend. And I couldn’t be more thrilled to have you on my show so thank you, Roberta Bartolo
Roberta: Well thank you Sami Jo for asking me to do this of course, like I said it’s really not my comfort zone to be getting asked the questions. I am used to being on the other side of it, but let’s do this.
Sami Jo: I love this. I’m going to call you Bart from here on in, is that okay?
Roberta: That’s okay.
Sami Jo: Unless you’d prefer Roberta? It seems so strange to say Roberta.
Roberta: I know. Nobody from hockey, the hockey world who knows me calls me Roberta. It’s Bart, it’s Barto. That kinda thing. But it’s ya so it does sound weird. Well a couple people maybe just call me Roberta from the hockey world.
Sami Jo: Okay well I will flip back and forth and I’ll keep it fresh.
Roberta: Either way, I will answer because I don’t think there is anyone else to answer the questions.
Sami Jo: There we go, alright so firstly let’s start in the very beginning. How did your family come to reside in Kenora, Ontario and as a young girl how did you find sports?
Roberta: Well that’s an interesting question. Okay so my parents came from Trinidad and Tobago. They actually met at university of Manitoba so back in those days, 1960ish like that. My understanding was that there was not a university in the Caribbean or certainly not in Trinidad and Tobago for people that actually wanted to pursue that higher education. So they did not meet in the Caribbean they met in Winnipeg. I think they were both members of Caribbean students groups, that kind of thing, so they met in Winnipeg and got married, and so Winnipeg has been kind of a hub for my family in Canada. So I used to have even more family members here but I do have still an aunt and uncle, cousins that kind of thing living here. My oldest brother was actually born in Winnipeg. So it was, both my parents became teachers and for my Dad that teaching opportunity was in Kenora. So that’s how our family ended up living in Kenora, and that’s where I was born and also my brother, who is about a year and half older than me.
Sami Jo: Most people listening probably don’t understand that Kenora really is very close to Winnipeg. It’s where a lot of people have lakes and cottages. It’s just this gorgeous little community that is surrounded by incredible views and lakes and so much outdoor stuff to do. So how in that environment you find sports?
Roberta: Well you know, I mean I started skating when I was three.
Sami Jo: Wow!
Roberta: Ya, which is sort of impressive especially when you think okay it’s this Caribbean family. Ya it’s entirely possible that if we had of lived in Winnipeg that might not have happened. Because when you think of it Kenora it’s this sporty environment basically you are surrounded by nature. If you are going to fit in or not be bored to tears you’re going to have to learn how to do these things right? And my Mom she actually, it’s almost nine years since she passed away, but she was an athletic person. If she was born in another era she would have been able to do a lot of sports and she always talked about this sport called Netball.
Sami Jo: Oh yes!
Roberta: Do you know what Netball is?
Sami Jo: I do know what netball is, I’ve watched the top level. It’s basically basketball. But it seems like the ringette version of hockey, netball is the same, sort of similar. Theres areas you have to protect.
Roberta: Is it for girls?
Sami Jo: Yeah it was made for girls but it has evolved into a sport like softball in of itself.
Roberta: I’ve never seen it!
Sami Jo: So she was a netball player? That’s amazing!
Roberta: She used to talk about netball and how she loved netball which is ironic because I ended up playing ringette. I played, I guess, the netball of hockey. I think that fact that my mom was naturally an athletic person who just never really had that chance. And just the friendships that she made. One of the people, when I think back, okay someone who was my first friend, her name was Shirley and her Mom, actually which I didn’t know that when I was little, but she was actually Metis or you know part indigenous. She had lovely dark hair and she knew everything about canoeing and all the canoeing pathways you could take on this lake or that lake, she knew everything. She lived down the street from us when I was three and I guess between zero to three, so she would take my Mom and she taught my Mom how to skate. Of course the kids would come along, I can’t really remember however I’ve seen the super-8 videos of us at age three. Right! So it’s great we are skating in our onesy!
Sami Jo: Three is young too! I mean I think of my daughter, now at five, just kind of taking gingerly taking the steps. Three is young to be out on the ice. Were you on an outdoor rink or were you guys just out on the lakes?
Roberta: Outdoor rink and it’s still there to this day. So it’s the outdoor rink I learned to skate on and in Kenora it’s also right beside, like a baseball diamond.
Sami Jo: Is that the one at Keewatin or the one in Kenora?
Roberta: In Kenora, I’m trying to think of the landmarks. Not far from the liquor store. I’m trying to think‘what would Sami Jo know ,it’s not far from the liquor store.
Sami Jo: Well there is really only the two indoor rinks and we ran the hockey school in Keewatin which is sort of the other community right beside.
Roberta: Whereas I grew up really close to the indoor rink in Kenora so that outdoor rink was I guess they called that one Central. It’s still there I am pretty sure. I remember maybe, I don’t know 10 years ago maybe? Time flies but I recall on Christmas Day playing there with my brother and my nephew sort of a thing we sort always think we have to play hockey. I guess a couple of years ago we were playing hockey in Winnipeg together.
Sami Jo: That’s what we always thought we had to do on Christmas Day too.
Roberta: Yeah, you either have to play hockey or in Kenora sometimes we would end up on the lake by somebody’s house playing football in the snow. It’s like you need to do something while the turkey is cooking and it has to be an outdoor sport.
Sami Jo: And parents just send all the kids outside is probably what happened.
Roberta: They had no issue with us not being there. So yeah, that’s where I learned how to skate. That’s my earliest skating, so skating has just always been in my life. I’ve skated almost as long as I’ve walked.And you know hockey is the thing, I guess I always wanted to play hockey of course, but there just wasn’t girl’s hockey, certainly not in Kenora. I’m not sure what years are we talking like early 70s?
Sami Jo: Yeah it’s interesting because looking back at some of the history in Winnipeg there was hockey for women in the 60s, and then it got eradicated. There became some ideology that changed, and that’s when the sports for women started. You know the softballs and ringette and all that, so there was no more girl’s teams and it wasn’t really until I would say the 90s girl’s teams again. So was your first hockey team at University of Manitoba?
Roberta: It actually was, which is kind of weird to think that right, but that’s the first time I ever got to play organized hockey. I mean up until then it was ringette. I mean ringette didn’t even start in Kenora until I was nine.
Sami Jo: But you skated until then?
Roberta: I skated. I used to go to the outdoor rink closer to my house; my oldest brother would take me. He’s the one who showed me how raise the puck and stuff like that. We’d skate and one of my friends would call me up ‘lets’s go play, you bring your brother and I’ll bring mine’. We were all about hockey, we would have preferred much more to play hockey actually when I was little. I must have been like five or something you know at that time they started at three. I was a decent skater for five. I liked the speed I would go as fast as I could.
Sami Jo: And you could motor around I’m sure!
Roberta: Yeah I was probably faster than I am now you know because I’m old. I know that my brother, the one that is a year-and-a-half older, his coach his house overlooked the rink and he saw me skating with the kids and he actually approached my parents about me playing on the boys team because he thought I should play as he could see that I could skate well. All I know is that I ended up in figure skating the next year. So this is what 1975 maybe 1976, so the gender roles were very much entrenched. So I ended up in figure skating instead which, you know me, I’m not graceful, I’m improving my flexibility right now, I actually have way better flexibility than I did at that age.
Sami Jo: But you would have been a good skater so I’m sure you would have done well or enough.
Roberta: I didn’t do great, but I know that it helped my skating but I figure skated for seven years.
Sami Jo: Wow!
Roberta: I did seven years and I wanted to stop. Once I found ringette this is more what I wanted to do. But parents are like, no you can’t quit, so it took a couple of years for them to be able to let me let that go. So then it was a number of years of basically ringette until maybe the age of 17 or something like that.
Sami Jo: And then when you went to University of Manitoba did you know they had a team or was there a sign-up? How did how did you find the women’s hockey team or was it intramural first?
Roberta: I was just playing some intramural. Ireally wasn’t aware of it. It’s almost like they found me. That’s actually when I met Sue was because I lived in residence at that time and we partied a lot and I think that was it was well-known that we partied a lot. So one day in came the women’s hockey team came in doing a bottle drive at our residence. Because you could probably do quite well doing a bottle drive.
Sami Jo: Right! It make’s sense, so to where the gold is.
Roberta: Go to where the bottles are. So I think that’s actually how I found out.
Sami Jo: So was Susie one of those people she was already on the team
Roberta: She was already on the team and actually I think that might have been just before she ended up on the national team
Sami Jo: okay
Roberta: Right around that time. So that was my first memory of her and my first awareness. That and the fact that they actually ran a tournament, that’s what else happened, the U of M team, and I think some of the teams that were supposed to come didn’t and so they asked our intramural team to be in it.
Sami Jo -And was it all women or were guys in it too?
Roberta: All women, it was an all-women’s tournament and we weren’t that great. Like I said we partied a lot too, so it was this smell of alcohol permeating in the change room. Like our coach was almost getting high from the fumes. So that’s my first memory of the University of Manitoba, the team. And you know we got our asses kicked because we didn’t know what we were doing. We were just a bunch of partiers. But I guess if there’s a place that I can play so yeah I guess my involvement in sports as far as hockey
Sami Jo: Did they just ask you, they said this girl can skate let’s see if she wants to play or you just went to a practice.
Roberta: I went to an open tryout. I guess there was an open tryout and you know and I went and bought better equipment. So I went and tried out and I made the team. So I played there for about five years which of course it’s during those years that I met you. It’s funny right, I was so mature I was 21 or something
Sami Jo: Right you were so old and I would have been about 14.
Roberta: I was very grown-up and you were 14 years old
Sami Jo: Well before we get into any Sami stories, how did you how did your parents react to you joining the hockey team was that were they excited for you? Did they support you or just saw it as something you did at University
Roberta: I just think I saw that is something that I did at University I mean I think they reacted the same way they reacted to me wanting to do any sport. I mean nobody encouraged me to play little league baseball. My brothers never played baseball it was just kind of like I liked the uniforms and I thought it would be fun to wear those uniforms and stuff like I said you know what I want to sign up for little league okay here’s the fact that it was probably five bucks or something and I went down and signed myself up and they were just always okay with me doing sports I think they probably thought that if I’m doing sports or music or something like that I’m not getting in trouble
Sami Jo: Which they also did encourage music in your household.
Roberta: Oh yeah, music was a big deal we all took piano lessons. Again that was one of those things I wanted to drop out of but I was encouraged let’s say to continue I did my great 8 in piano so I do have a high school credit for piano. I don’t know if that’s in all provinces but in Ontario at that time if you took grade 8 you did get a high school credit. I guess if I’d have done the last two grades I would have gotten more credits.
Roberta: Okay. So I played in a band and in high school and in high school and lots of high school sports.
Sami Jo: They seem very supportive. Do you think that was because they were teachers? Or did they themselves were supported that way growing up? They seemed very encouraging of you guys, in a new environment.
Roberta: Yeah that’s a good question. In some cases you know there were opportunities they weren’t necessarily able to have. But as far as music goes, my mom’s mother was a piano teacher.
Sami Jo: So it was natural in their family.
Roberta: It made sense. My uncle that lives here in the city, he said yeah she taught all of us how to play the piano. So yes there was just always that expectation in the family that there’s going to be a piano in the house, it’s what they grew up with. As far as sports, I don’t know if it was a strategic thing, but when you grow up in, a little, you know, kind of “redneck” community. (Keeping it real)
Sami Jo: For lack of a better term.
Roberta: Yes for lack of a better term. There’s something about if you do sports you are more accepted. The reality is it was a pretty racist town to grow up in and I would challenge anyone who would want to challenge me on that. It was, and not just for me but for the indigenous kids. I always felt like I was in the same boat. But there was something protective. If you could play a sport you were seen differently. It’s not that you’re not going to have to deal with any of that stuff, but it’s definitely a protection, more than being smart. I think it would be “oh she’s a good athlete, she’s a good skater, she can hit, she can spike the volleyball”.
Sami Jo: So it was really valued within the community doing well in sports?
Roberta: Absolutely it was valued and the reality is we were doing what a lot of the other people did. Like we would go fishing with the friends that our family had made at church and stuff like that you know the outdoor life is just kind of the way it is. So if you want to be accepted you will do those things and it’s not like those are horrible things to do. It’s like I sold myself out. It’s not like that it’s just that these are the things that if you can do that you have a certain status.
Sami Jo: Yes the community is doing it so it gives you sort of that shared experience.
Roberta: Yes, a shared experience a certain credibility. When I think of other kids in high school or whatnot that were minorities, the ones that were more accepted whether they were indigenous or not. If, they weren’t such good athletes I suspect they would have faced a lot more racism directly. So it was an interesting dynamic to grow up in that time and that place.
Sami Jo: Did any of that change going to University of Manitoba? Was it different coming from a small town to suddenly now be in the big city? What was that like and what were those experiences like?
Roberta: Do you mean in terms of having to deal with this much racism?
Sami Jo: Yeah, in Winnipeg. Do you feel like it was different coming to a big city or you felt like there was more people that were going through similar experiences, despite still having to deal with a lot of the racism that existed in the city?
Roberta: You know I guess it was a more subtle version of it is what I noticed and I notice it to this day. I find people don’t necessarily, I mean people will be overtly racist to me, or they might sort of get to that point where they have a comfort level with me and it’s almost like they forget I’m black and then things will slip out. This even happens on the hockey team I play currently. It’s like they will slip and say something and everyone goes “Oh my God”. It’s like they forgot and have gotten comfortable and forgot they don’t see me that way. So there’s that. What I noticemore like yes the micro derisions and stuff. But it’s more like they would want me to join in with the racism towards another group.
Sami Jo: Oh interesting.
Roberta: Like they will say racist things about Indigenous people or some other group. And they don’ t get it, and I don’t know that it’s like this for other people that are a minority, but I feel it personally, especially when it’s an Indigenous group, when they are making comments about Indigenous people. I grew up in Kenora. Those were the kids would play with me when the white girls wouldn’t. That’s what it was alike.
Sami Jo: Almost a protective feel that you get.
Roberta: Yes absolutely. So that’s what I notice is that it’s not they won’t necessarily be racist about black people to me. But so it’s a more subtle thing. And I guess I have become that kind of person. I am comfortable with other people’s discomfort. So I don’t mind calling it out. In fact, I’ll just go ahead and do it. And I’d rather have that difficult conversation. And now you know, where I stand,
Sami Jo: And why and I love I love that about you. Because I feel like you’ve always been sort of that guiding light to those of us that know you to be able to have those tougher conversations and not necessarily just about race, but it has allowed that to be you to be a very open person. So I’m grateful that you’re willing to have those conversations and I’m sorry, I’m sure that people that know you are grateful for that as well. Despite the fact that it’s probably annoying you have do it all the time. I’m sure.
Roberta: What we’re grateful isn’t all the time. It comes up. And I mean, it’s one of those things where usually my first thought is, okay, what happens if I do nothing? And I’ll just do nothing at first sometimes, depending on who, what the context is, you know but then it’s like, okay, I did nothing. And now, if they they’ve taken it a step further, it’s almost like it was a testing of the waters. It’s like, okay, it confirms to me that that, in fact, was something okay, now I’m going to speak to a third, you know, it probably depends on my mood. And you know, how late in the day it is? Yeah, right. It’s so you know, but it’s, it’s something that’s happening all around us. And it’s, you know, it’s nice, I have to say, I’ve always been able to have those kinds of conversations with you. We had, we were having these kind of conversations years ago, before George Floyd and when everybody started seem to have a consciousness about it. But I can recall us having these kinds of conversations and you asking me questions and discussing difficult things.
Sami Jo: While having people in my life like yourself, and Susie Yuen, who is a Chinese Canadian, from such a young age, I feel incredibly privileged. The two of you met at University of Manitoba, and you guys really became you will never say this about yourself but leaders on the University of Manitoba hockey team. So what was it like that made that team so special here? I feel like I hear so many great stories about that team. You guys seem to have a ton of fun. And do you develop these incredible athletes? So what was it that made that team so special?
Roberta: That’s a really good question. You know, I mean, when I think back, because I mean, like I say, we were on the river, three of us from that team were skating yesterday and I mean I’ve been lucky. It’s more Sue she makes these connections and always remembers everybody’s names and stuff. You know, but she stays connected to a lot of people.
Sami Jo: I think for most of us in Susie’s life, we just feel like we’re along for the ride.
Roberta: That’s a really good, that is a very good way of putting it Sami Jo. I remember that again. I mean, I was whatever, 20 or whatever. And I remember lots of parties. I mean, I remember like, I’m that kind of person. I’m not. And you know this about me, I am not the most competitive person in the world. I do not have that thing that people have like that “hates to lose”, right? That’s not me. I think winning is fun. It’s fun to win. Yay. And but if we lose, I’m not it doesn’t devastate me and I’m looking forward. Okay. So where are we going for drinks afterwards? You know, and I’m all about the food. So it’s like, Oh, great. Like we have players from up north who were bringing moose meat and pickerel and we would be frying that up at like midnight at somebody’s house.
Sami Jo: So basically you were the yin and the yang with Susie Yuen I think who was determined to win at all costs.
Roberta: Yes, we are opposites as far as all that goes. So I was more about the process of the things going on. Like I was the kind of person that like, if there were some kind of drama going on. It’s like, you know what, I will bench me, bench me the whole game. I don’t care. I will sit here to make a point. I was more about the principle of things. And how is this affecting. How are these dynamics affecting the teammates? I was that person. Yeah, I cared about the fact that, you know, it was important for us to establish something that was seen as something higher than intramurals and a club team because it bothered me that that women’s hockey wasn’t being taken seriously. And that why isn’t there a proper varsity program? That we’re paying out of pocket in order to keep this thing going? So yeah, I guess I was that person I was, I was just, I enjoyed the sport and you’re playing, never had any aspirations, like, or any thoughts at all? I’m going to make it and this is going to become my career. No, I just enjoyed sport for what it was, and for the connections.
Sami Jo: This episode brought to you by the Sami Jo Small Hockey School with locations in Winnipeg, MB and Oakville, ON.
Started in 1998 My philosophy is to teach in a safe, fun environment with a very individualized focus.
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Sami Jo: Yeah, I think that, for knowing you. I could see you being that person that wants to leave it better than when you got there and leaving that legacy. I think it’s very important and really intrinsic to who you are. You leave every conversation that way. Feeling like you know, you’re getting, you’re making a point, you’re getting the point across and you’ve left every person I think that you’ve touched in a better way because of that. You’re really constantly sort of giving to others protecting others. You went on, you’ve coached at my hockey school for 20 years. I think you’re always the first person to raise your hand and get on the ice with those girls, which I think is just so amazing, but anytime I come over Your drill, you’re yes teaching a little bit of hockey but there’s always these life lessons that are woven into it that I sit there and I just stare. And I think, you know, it’s so amazing. These girls are getting this at such a young age. You just you teach some life lessons, which is, I think missed in a lot of sports in this country. So did you learn to do that because your parents taught you that that or coaches taught you how to do that, or is that just something that you feel innately like you need to do?
Roberta: Sometimes you can learn something when it’s not being taught to you, like you sort of, you know, like those life lessons like the when you when you talk about the one like, you know, I just sort of decided at some point that every year I would give the girls a fear of failure talk on the ice. On the ice during the drills, probably something I didn’t have the skill to teach hockey wise, I don’t know, it’s like, you know, these turns are too tight, I’m not gonna do it. So I don’t have somebody younger to demo. So I’m just gonna talk about fear failure. I mean, it’s funny, because, that fear of failure thing. It actually it came from sport, but from a different sport. When I was 13, I started skiing in Kenora, because you know, there’s enough hills. And I mean, I would ski three times a week I got into.
Sami Jo: What hill is in Kenora?
Roberta: It’s called Mount Evergreen. And I mean, I haven’t been there since I was a teenager. And it might have been, I’d like to think maybe they’ve even expanded it, but it was enough. And it’s steep enough in spots, you can become a decent skier. I know, because my oldest brother, he was good skier. And it’s like, he still is he like he’ll do the moguls and stuff like that I like
Sami Jo: We learned on Spring Hill, which is an old garbage dump in Winnipeg. And I thought, as a kid growing up. They had the wide chair lift.
Roberta: The chairlift so you can learn how to do a chairlift before you actually go to the mountains and freak out. So I mean, that’s, that is where that and that’s the story, I would always tell the kids about how I started skiing, and after maybe a week or so because I didn’t want to fall down on the bunny Hill. And eventually I could, I was doing the medium kind of runs and stuff. And I remember I had this day where I didn’t fall once and are so proud of myself that I didn’t fall. And I told my brother whose three years older, right? So I always looked up to him. And he had started skiing probably a few years before me and he was really good. And I was like, ah, I didn’t fall once. I’m expecting to get a good for you. And you just looked at me with disgust and he said “that just means you weren’t trying hard enough”. And I was shocked. But it stuck with me. But not so much with skiing, I still didn’t like I still didn’t want to do the difficult run.
Sami Jo: The falls really hurt in skiing, that’s different.
Roberta: Yeah. I don’t want to get hurt. But it stuck with me in pretty much every other part of my life. And it’s funny because you know, when I was I talked to the kids about it at camp and I remember, the first time I did it, it was just take them aside and do it formally, informally. I was just watching these girls doing they were doing the drill one of these ones, you know one of these ones where they’re all lined up, and then they have to do a tight turn around a cone. But then they’re supposed to go tighter and the other way. And I’m watching them and they’re all going everybody has a side, it’s easier to go to, for me it’s to the left I’m a lefty, I find it easier to do my tight turns to the left. And I’m watching them, but they were doing it always to one side. And then they came back and they were in line and I said, I was watching you guys, you’re always doing your turns to the same side, you didn’t work the more difficult side and they said, well, we’re afraid we’re gonna fall. And I threw that little story at them. And then these girls and they were probably they’ve been coming for a while they were in their later teens and and they just looked at me and they went is that for life to this idea that if you’re not falling, you’re not doing what you’re not learning anything. And I went “Yes!” And then I said, I want to see you fall and want to see fail. And it was it completely changed their approach to the drill. They went into the drill. And they were laughing. And they were going for these turns and they were wiping out and I was like now you’re where you’re supposed to be. And what I care, I didn’t care that much honestly about whether they become a good hockey player. That’s the difference between me and you know, probably the more elite coaches that you have a camp. It’s not that I it’s not that I don’t want them to be good hockey players. I’m okay with that. I don’t know if hockey is really their thing. I don’t know, if they want to make the national team then yeah, then it’s important. Or if they want to play college, I actually want them to become good at life. I want them to take risks. And I want them to understand that making mistakes is essential. And that you do not grow without them. That they’re like, you know, they’re like this, sort of you’re not making you’re like me on that just I’m just going to keep doing what I can already do, going down the run and never progressing. And I want them to be able to progress in life. So that’s why when they actually looked at me and said, is this in life, they got so excited to realize, oh, mistakes are good. I said I never got that conversation. I did grow up in homework. No, you’re it’s not okay to make mistakes if you get 90% You know what, why didn’t you get 100 right. And I think a lot of people grew up in that kind of environment. And so for me I had to learn it a different way. So it’s weird that that actually came from sport, not from hockey came from skiing. And it’s funny, it’s only a few years ago, like, I told my brother about that. So yeah, you know, you said something when you were 16. That was actually really wise. And I told him that story and, and how I tell it to the kids, and he just kind of looked at me said, “I was mean!”
Sami Jo: Was that your brother that was at your birthday party at the 50th.
Roberta: Well, actually, yeah, you met both of them. So yeah, that was the one who lives in the south. Yeah, he lives down in Atlanta. Yeah..It was mean, it’s kind of I mean, you could have said it nicer way. But the thing is, it stuck with me all this time. I mean, I couldn’t progress very much further as a skier. Truth be told, but I think it helped me in life to take a life lesson.
Sami Jo: That’s why I love having you at the hockey school is because to me, I think I have the same values as you when it comes to hockey that I don’t care if these girls become great hockey players, we have some amazing instructors that are there that are former national team players and that are so good. But to me success is if they’re still involved in the game, when they’re 40-50 years of age that could be playing, it could be coaching that can be whatever, just helping volunteering, a really that idea of service to others. But trying and I want to tell you that I used the “BART” story just yesterday with my daughter, the skiing story. So we take care of our niece, too. So we have two five year olds, and one of my friends was able to make an outdoor rink, which is pretty hard here in our area. So we’ve only had it for about three or four weeks. And so she on the weekends lets us go out. So it’s just me and the two girls. And of course they’re gingerly stepping like this is their new to hockey, they’re new to skating.. So there’s a lot of falling like a lot of falling and bailing like hard after the first couple times like Kenzie is not liking it, and she just is not enjoying it. And then yesterday on the way I said, my friend, Bart tells the story about falling and how important it is. And let’s see how many times you guys can fall this time. So then every time they fell they were laughing and joking and getting up themselves too. Before that it was always like, man, help me help me. And then this was like, No, I can get out because I can do that again. And they follow that get up and then they would skate a little bit further and go faster and be like I can go this fast and then fall.
Roberta: It just spurs growth. It sounds amazing.
Sami Jo: That’s Yeah, and it’s your story. Your brother that story is like, permeated.
Roberta: Yeah, exactly. It’s this funny story. And I mean, you know, you know, people who and it’s, it’s interesting, because I had that sense that you and I were. It’s funny that you ever made it to the National Team, because you’re not that type A about everything, you certainly are about your own goals and able to push yourself and to be that kind of person. But it’s neat that you’re able to let go of that with the camp. Because I think just the fact like you say your goal is for these kids to stay involved in sport. Well, I mean, your camp is this camp for these kids, it becomes their life to come back every year, they come back, and then they don’t stop coming back. I’m looking at these instructors just seem to be getting younger and younger. And I’m confused. But it’s actually takes me a while to realize, Oh, this is a kid I’ve known since they were six.
Sami Jo: They were our instructors 20 years later, and they are in their 30s. They’ve been instructing for years. And you know what, did they become an elite player make the national team No, but they are now the role models for these little girls coming up? And how cool is that, that they were able to kind of create this thing. And that’s just the fact that they love it enough to keep coming back. It’s teaching that joy, teaching the joy of the sport.
Sami Jo: It’s so key to take it into sort of a different realm. Obviously, you have the sport is a big part of your life and music. But I want to hear a little bit about your job and how your sports background has helped you in the job that you do now.
Roberta: Okay, so, yeah, I guess what my job is. I’m a mental health therapist and I’ve been doing that for the past 12 years. Yeah, I mean, it’s helpful because and what’s interesting is, I guess I’ve chosen not to work privately on my own. I’ve always done team sports my whole life, other than when I got into running is about the only thing I’ve really done all of my own. But I’ve always been in that team environment. So it’s interesting that Yeah, I’ve chosen to work on teams. Like in my current role I work for the health region. So I have really I have several teams, I guess. I mean, I have the team of all the therapists in my program who are you know, situated throughout the city, so that’s that team and I’m able to consult with them, we bounce ideas off of each other, we consult on our cases all the time. It’s great. But I’m also part of the team within the clinic that I’m located at. So I’m, you know, I work within the primary care team, with the doctors and nurses and nurse practitioners and all that. So, there’s just always this constant cooperation and collaboration. So it’s kind of like I have this little role, right? I am not, I am not trained medically, I spend a lot of time with medical people, I spend a lot of time with a psychiatrist, but I don’t have their training. But I know a lot about this little area more than they do. So to neat, like I, when I when I talk with it with, with the people I work with, because I work you know, there’s a occupational therapist, there’s dieticians, there’s a clinical pharmacist. So we, you know, we’ve got exercise physiologists, we have physiotherapist, it’s just a really rich set up the way that it is, it’s very comprehensive and holistic approach to medicine, really. So I call it the super brain, I call it’s like, it’s like we can I can plug into the super brain. I only know so much. But when I plug into the super brain, I get to access the knowledge of all these professionals, never mind all of them. But the teams that they work in and consult with as well. Because I can take something and I can plug it to the minds of all of the other therapists I work with. Before I come back now, it’s not just me. So it’s a really, I really like it, it’s this is essentially what I want to do until I retire. Because I think I enjoy that team aspect, I enjoy the part where, you know, they don’t have to know everything about the mental health stuff. That’s my job. And I don’t even have to know everything. Because I can plug into my clinical supervisor, I can plug into my consultation team within the larger group of all the therapists in my program, I have a consultation group that I meet with once a month, and we present cases and get feedback from each other. So I can always bring something to that case, or to any person on my team at any given time. So yeah, that’s I guess, playing team sports can prepare someone for that? I don’t know.
Sami Jo: So you’re lucky you got to you got to play team sports. So you obviously thrive on this environment? What do what suggestions or help do you provide to people who maybe aren’t strong in that environment? Or maybe more used to individual individually figuring things out on their own? How do you kind of recommend them have this holistic approach?
Roberta: Well, you know, I think a part of it, and it kind of it goes back to that whole being willing to fall. And I think being able to be vulnerable, right? It’s a vulnerability thing to be able to say, I don’t think I have I don’t know if I have all the answers. And just to be upfront, and I’ll even I’ll be upfront with my clients say, You know what? I don’t know, what’s the right answer here? I don’t know how to help you. I don’t know if I have all the answers on this. Is it? Is it cool with you, you know what I consult once a month with these people. Is it cool with you, if I present if I if I talk about your case, I’m not gonna give your name or anything like that. And sometimes people they’re like, really open or like, I’ll even explain to them, like, even our psychiatrists will do this. When it’s really like, you know, tough case, we’ll take you to a group of psychiatrists, and they will figure it out together. And I’ve had to explain to people because sometimes people think, well, they don’t know, no, this is what I mean. It’s being able to have that vulnerability, admit that you know, everything. And I think that’s maybe what’s at the heart of it for people that you know, haven’t learned it through sports or maybe some other kind of a team environment. I guess there’s other things besides sports, that that a person might be able to learn this in. But that it’s okay to not to not know everything. I mean, right hockey is like when I watch hockey on TV, when you when you actually watch it, you realize it’s a game of repeated failure, right?
Sami Jo: You make mistakes is going to probably you know, that constantly mistakes going on every time
Roberta: One mistake after another, you have to you make a mistake, and you will recover. It’s constantly mistake recovery. And it doesn’t matter if you’re watching Sidney Crosby, he’s not going to just walk through and score every single time somebody’s going to take the puck from him. You know, that’s just the nature of the sport is that it’s constant mistakes, we recover together mistakes, we recover together and I’ve had that those kinds of conversations in the past with teams I’ve worked on where you know, what, what is trust, does trust mean that I’m okay I’m gonna watch you. And then eventually, if you prove yourself to me enough times, I never make mistake there, I’m going to trust you. It’s like no, I’m, like you’d say, I guess I didn’t necessarily see myself that way for a long time as a leader. But to me being a good leader, a strong leader means no, I will leave with trust, I trust you doesn’t mean I believe that you’re never going to make a mistake. What I believe is that you’re going to make a mistake, but I trust that we will pick ourselves up together, we will help each other get back up, we’ll dust each other off, and then we will recover. And we’re going to progress through the state and I mean, I know certain sports like certainly hockey, and I’m sure a lot of other sports that you’ve played and or you’ve played a lot more than hockey, teach them that. I don’t know if that that mentality of that, we will make mistakes, and then we will all regroup and recover and then we’re going to progress. And I think that’s how it has to be certainly in the kind of work I do, to know we will make mistakes, I’m going to make them everyone will make them. But I trust that we can recover together, we will, we will back each other up and recover together.
Sami Jo: I love that two things that I really took away from that the super brain, like plugging into the super brain, we all have that in our lives, right? Whether it’s in a workplace, environment, family, whatever. I love that. And I love the idea of picking each other up, you know, when we make mistakes that we’re there for each other. And that’s really the true testament that well, a great teammate, but a great team as well. I’m going to talk about, I think what my favourite memory of you is, and I don’t even know if you know this memory is in. So right after the Torino Olympics in 2006, we had our first camp back and that was in Kenora. I was trying to regain my spot on the team as a goalie that actually played and Kenora was a struggle for me because I still hadn’t really gotten over Torino not getting a medal. And it was just it was hard. And I felt like the pressure was really high because the World Championships were going to be in Winnipeg to meet that team. And there’s a lot of expectation as a local Manitoba to do a lot of media. Anyways, you and Susie took me out for lunch one day. And I don’t even know if we talked about any of that. But for those two hours that were at lunch, you just made me forget about any of that about any of the pressure and realize the gratitude that I had for being able to be in that situation to be there and to be able to play hockey. And the next time I stepped on the ice, it was for the afternoon training session, the joy that I felt was so different. And I think that that’s one of my favourite memories, because it just you taught me that gratitude without saying anything with probably just making it a really fun lunch. So I really appreciate that. You’ve done that for me so many times in my life, but I want to know if you have any fun, Sami memories that stick out for you.
Roberta: Oh, gosh. I think it’s funny. It’s not that I don’t think you’re a fun person. Because I find it like,
Sami Jo: Really? I mean, I’m not the partier or let’s be honest, I probably not the one that is.
Roberta: I guess my fun Sami, like my fun memories. It’s more stuff with your parents, like just your parents just making me laugh. Especially your dad just, you know, so I don’t know, maybe this isn’t this is a funny memory of your dad. Because I love it. There’s so many but to me what you know just because you know Hey, your parents, they’re not unlike me. They like to enjoy life.
Sami Jo: They would be the ones at the party with you, my Mom being the DD on the way home.
Roberta: Right, exactly. And if I remember right, like, you know, I do recall your dad saying something like, you know, his attitude about you coming as a 14 year old with a bunch of 20 sevens like can you guys like loosen her up a little bit like, you know, come on.,
Sami Jo: So just to put that into context. I went to what was called the Western Shield. Is that right? Western Canadian shield. I think that turnout was brought up to play for your team. As a young goaltender I was playing boys hockey at the time. So that was my first experience in women’s hockey and it was with 20-somethings. Yeah, I’m here I was traveling on my own to somewhere in BC Surrey or something?
Roberta: I think we were in Surrey. Yeah. So anyways, to get some fun memory of your dad. I remember another one that that makes me laugh. Just sort of had your dad to a tee. You know, when I after I’d started riding a motorcycle and stuff, but he’s kind of you know, he’s like, that seems like fun. I used to think, you know, I might like to ride a motorcycle and I looked at your dad and I said, it’s zero blood alcohol for their first 2 years. And his answer was, when would I ride and I said right and he and I were killing ourselves laughing and your Mum wasn’t laughing as much but Rod. I thought it was pretty funny. So I don’t know.
Sami Jo: I remember you taking me out on the bike around the city too. That was so much fun. Yeah, that was that was to see you out. That’s the other memory that now just pops into my brain as you come into hockey school. Right and in your chaps and your bike helmet walking in the middle of the summer with your hockey bag attached to your motorcycle, like your skates and stuff.
Roberta: Yeah, I would have the skates on the back seat. And I have the stick some kind of way on the back, which always gets I mean, only when a pain Are you going to see a black woman riding a really big motorcycle with hockey equipment. But actually, I remember that Kenora camp because that was during the years, I wasn’t able to coach because I had my work schedule that took me to another camp with kids I worked with. But then I was able to do the Kenora camp because it wasn’t the same week. And I recall I’m not going to ignore in my car and like that’s just it’s beautiful riding the twists and turns. And so I remember I rode up at the Keewatin rink and Billy saw me and he says, Please tell me you came from Winnipeg on your bike with the hockey equipment? Yes, I did. I had my luggage rack, the equipment. I had a stick straps on with, you know, with the zip ties. And I remember passing somebody on the highway and this little kid is just like this, this is it..
Sami Jo: You’re also at the Keewatin most of the kids showed up in boats because they came from whatever, wherever they lived or the cottages and there was a boat dock right there that they could so half the kids come in with their hockey equipment off of a boat you come into that motorcycle?
Roberta: Yeah, it was better. Yeah. Well, and it’s funny because growing up with that, and Kenora I remember, you know, it’s to me, Well, of course, the Safeway has docks, like doesn’t ever safely have docks. Like I just, I was just that’s just what I grew up with. I just thought it was a nice normal thing in the world. And it wasn’t it’s, you know, people would come to your Safeway has a parking lot for boats. But how else are we going to get out there if we’re in our boat, right? So it’s a different way to grow up. And yeah, there’s definitely a lot of good I like, there’s great things,
Sami Jo: There must be a saying “only in Kenora”. That must be a thing.
Roberta: I guess so. But yeah, I didn’t even think about that. Yeah, because it’s not that far from the water, the Keewatin dock as well. So you have a lot of what I would say are random things that you liked to accomplish. And I don’t want to say random as if they’re not normal. But you are always setting these new goals for yourself. And I think the latest is to be able to do the splits, right? Yeah. Yeah. So you have done multiple different ones, from running marathons. What’s the impetus behind these goals? Are they things that you set, like on a monthly basis, a yearly basis, you always have something on the go that is new and different and unique, and so far outside sort of your realm. So I’d love to see why those are important for you.
Roberta: I don’t even know I guess that just always something about me. And since I was young, I mean if I What if I find out something is hard, then I want to do it. Like when I was like when I was in grade seven, and we had to pick an instrument to play, right. And I knew I like brass, I preferred brass over woodwind. And then they said, well, the French one is the most difficult brass and the oboe was the most difficult to work with. So if I would have played woodwind, I would have played the oboe. If I, but I chose brass. So that meant Okay, then I have to pick the hardest one. I have to have to do the hardest one. And, you know, I heard it was going to military boot camps really hard. So then Okay, then that means I I’m doing it. But it’s like, I don’t know what I don’t know what it is. There’s something about me that likes these challenges. And certainly, and I’ll tell you what, like boot camp was, you know, I did not know you went to a military boot camp. Oh, okay. Well, so that’s because just because, because I didn’t want necessarily to join the military. I think if I could have been a pilot, I would have thought that was pretty cool. But I obviously do not have 2020 vision. So that was kind of out. But I think I just I heard it was really hard. And like I want to do things that other people can’t do. For some reason. I don’t know where it came from. But that was probably the first time I really did something like that was like, Okay, I want to I want to do that.
Sami Jo: And it’s funny because it’s at such I don’t know if dichotomy is the right word, but that’s such an opposite to your sort of lack of competitism that you say about yourself. This is like, Okay, well, if somebody can’t do it, I need to do it. This is like an individual competitiveness with yourself. Almost?
Roberta: Yeah, it’s just something. Yeah, I don’t know exactly what that is. But there’s, you know, I don’t necessarily want to be the fastest like yeah, I’ve done 10 marathons but I mean, you know, I’m like trying to not be last basically. I mean, I’ll be if I can get into the middle of it. Yeah, like, crushed it. Like I’m not, you know, it’s just it’s, it’s this other this other thing, it’s somewhere along the line I like I learned to, to embrace mental challenges. And I realized that the bootcamp was a mental challenge. And I remember, you know, the sergeant who was probably in his 20s, you know, he wasn’t necessarily the wisest person, but he said something that stuck with me when he was punishing us, you know, in the military, they punish everyone, when some one person screws up, so we were all being punished with physical exercise particularly hard that moment. And he said, the physical part is easy. You say, just do it. He said, it’s the mental part. That’s tough. And he was right. And I realized every one of these things, people think I do these physical challenges they are, it’s a mental challenge, to run it to run a marathon it the challenges, I don’t want to run, I don’t want to get up out of bed on a Sunday. And it’s cold, it’s winter, you know, I’m put on my ski goggles and go for whatever it is a four mile run, and it just keeps getting longer and longer, until you’re, you know, you’re running 20 miles in your training, I don’t want to do that I would rather be comfortable and stay home. You know, you can be partway along a run. And your brain is saying, you know, this is hard. Let’s stop. And then you have to have this conversation back. No, yeah, I recognize this is hardwork and I keep going. And that is I guess, on some, I don’t know where that came from. But somewhere along the line, embrace this idea of I can I can do a mental challenge. So it’s but
Sami Jo: What are some other kind of different things? We’ll say different for lack of a better word.
Roberta: This is something? No, no, no, I just, I don’t know, I just do two things. I mean, the reality about me, you know, I think you know, me well enough to know, like, the reality is, I’m a couch potato, I’m a couch potato. But I’m gonna get up off the couch and might go for a really long run. But believe me that I my goal is to get back to the coach, and just to be comfortable, and just to, you know, so depending on when people see me in the day, they will have a very different view of who I am or what I’m all about. The reality is, as you know, there’s a couch in the garage and there is a reason for that.
Sami Jo: Because you’re on the couch in the garage,
Roberta: I’m on the couch in the garage. But I might go out for a motorcycle ride or go kayaking, or whatever it is. But I’m going to come back and I’m going to be a coach. So I don’t know, I don’t see myself as competitive in that way. But I guess I do embrace at the same time embrace challenge.
Sami Jo: How close are you to doing the splits now?
Roberta: I’m about six inches from I don’t know, how much do you have to edit? But my crotch is? Six inches away?
Sami Jo: So not very far at all.
Roberta: I can get out. Okay, yeah. Not and now. Like, I have to send you pictures sometimes. So you can see what it looks like when I started last May. Like it doesn’t look like someone who’s trying to do the splits. It looks like someone who’s trying to sit on some pillows and with legs. And because that’s what that’s what I that’s what’s happening. But that’s Yeah, man. I mean, I’ve never had that that type of flexibility or mobility. But it’s just it’s just like the marathon. I mean, I’m not going to do a marathon this year anyway. So I kind of thought, Well, you know, this is something I’ve never been able to do that I never thought I could do. And that’s what running was for me. When I started. I never thought I could do it. I just didn’t like, you know, the reality how I don’t know if you know, but how I got into marathon running is I was volunteering at the Manitoba marathon. Yes, I was volunteering. With first-aid. I used to be involved. I did a lot of all different volunteer jobs. And that at that time, I had a few and one of them was I volunteer with St. John ambulance during first aid for events. And one of my friends was running it and wanted me to give her a ride to the marathon. And so I thought well, I might as well volunteer to do the event since I’m going to get up anyway. And I was close to where I live. And at that time that was around mile 20. And I was watching all these people go by and at first you see the people that win. That’s what you see on the TV. Skinny, they don’t look like me. They don’t move like the and they’re just flying by and
Sami Jo: They look at like gazelles essentially.
Roberta: Exactly. Still. They’re just they’re flying. And I’m watching them go by. But then after hours like this goes on for hours. Now I’m starting to see the real people like the people that okay, if I lost 20 pounds, I could look like that person. You see shaky thighs. You just see normal bodies. And you realize, okay, all these people are regular people doing this heroic thing. And what, for me that experience I did not like it. I did not like standing on the sidelines. I was it wasn’t just eventually stopped being people going by or marathon going by, it felt like life. Interesting, like, life is going by, and I’m standing here still, it’s like this river of life is going I wanted to be in that river. And I was a good 30 pounds overweight at the time I, you know, I, the very next day I started running. And it was, you know, when you’re heavy and you try to run, it’s like, you take a step. And your fat takes a step. It’s like,cha-chunk cha-chunk like, it didn’t, I didn’t move. Everything was moving in every direction. But I ran 20 minutes the next day, because that day, as I was watching, I said, You know what, I don’t think I could ever do a full marathon. But I think if I started running now, maybe, maybe I could do half. And that was my goal. And I did my first half the next year, it was like, God, it was like, I never thought I would ever do a full and I did a half again. And then there’s just started something in the tank, you know, maybe it needs to be fulls. And that’s when I got into doing the marathons, and it’s been 10 now. But really, what I learned is that, you know, our mind is powerful, you know, the mind is a powerful thing, and just sort of accepting it as a mental challenge. I think people, anybody that approaches it as a physical challenge, you won’t, you can’t do it. Physically, it’s not possible, you have to wrap your mind around, I’m just going to set this very small goal, I’m going to, I’m just going to go for this many minutes today. And the next week, I’m going to add a little bit more. It is a mental challenge. And so there’s some, it’s that same person I was when I was 17 going to boot camp that just some or wanting to play the French horn, right? I just, that’s challenging. I don’t want to do that.
Sami Jo: And I love that you break it down into small incremental steps that it really just is about being a little bit better today than you were yesterday , I guess. And slowly but surely perseverance, it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to do that first marathon, but you just slowly kind of build up. Right?
Roberta: That’s what it is what the splits right now. I mean, it’s taking, it’s gonna take long, inside splits are going to take even longer, I think it’ll be at least another year, of minimum before I can do side split. There are,you know,it’s, I have to say, running in particular changed my brain from an I can’t bring it into an icon. It’s like there’s a lot of rewiring going on. You know, we could get into a whole podcast on neuroplasticity, right on how did our brain change from this stuff? But, you know, it’s, it’s nice, like, just to realize, oh, as long as I think I can’t do the splits, I can’t do them. I’m 51. And now I’ve decided that maybe I can do this. And what do you know, even if I don’t get to the point of being able to do the splits, I’m way further than I ever would have been. So it’s just looking at things a little bit differently, I guess.
Sami Jo: Yeah. It’s about starting and just taking those small steps each day and having that routine and, and I think the one thing that I know about you is, you know, you’re not hard on yourself, if something doesn’t work out that day. We know you do it the next day, and you just keep going it doesn’t derail you keep going.
Roberta: So not anymore. Yeah, definitely. Definitely progressed both that kind of stuff over the years and pretty common to myself these days. So yeah,
Sami Jo: I want to ask you one last question to end this podcast. And you can get as profound as you like, I would really love to hear your opinion on this. So at Susie Yuen’s induction ceremony that we sat beside each other for hockey, for the Hall of Fame, and I think we were timing the induction of the inductees because they were under five minutes, and most of them were 25 minutes. So we’re waiting for Susie essentially the whole time giggling at this where you and I were sitting side by side and we’re at Susie’s table, which was her family. So Chinese Canadians, I think you were the only black person in the room. If not, maybe not one other person.
Roberta: Yeah, I think I might have been there might have been one other there might have been a black or brown dude. Right? It was probably between 700 and 1000 people in that room. There was a lot of people. So I want to know what is that like for you? Because you’re often in situations like that, I’m sure. And from there, how can we change that about the hockey culture to be more inclusive? That’s a big question.
Yeah, it’s what it feels like from your perspective.
Roberta: Well, I guess for me, it felt like par for the course. Right? I mean, again, I grew up in Kenora, right. And, you know, basically my family and one other family like actually, Mike Smith’s family was the other
Sami Jo: Mike Smith is a famous decathlete for Canada and also from Kenora and around your age?
Roberta: Yep he’s a he’s a couple years older than me. And so I, you know, his family, you know, actually our parents knew each other in university. So they all, they all ended up in Kenora. So yeah, they were basically the other the other black people Oh, I know who you are, you’re a Smith, it’s like no I’m a Bartolo. So that’s just the reality of, of when you’re in sort of an extreme minority, my comfort level with that is very high. Because it’s just, it’s my comfort zone to be around lots of people that don’t look like me .I sometimes I can tell that it is it is not the comfort zone for some of the other people that I’m there. And I’ll get a lot of looks or whatever, if I’m in one of these environments, or it was just even like with hockey, you know, if I tell people I play hockey, inevitably, the comment is field hockey? Or if I say,I don’t know, they just assume that I can’t do it. Right, then I wouldn’t do it. So unfortunately, I’m very used to it. As far as representation, it’s funny because you’re the one that sort of remember, last year, maybe you sent me some links to some black girl hockey stuff.
Sami Jo: And yeah, black girl Hockey Club.
Roberta: Thanks Sami! To introducing me to the black girl hockey club. Yeah, I didn’t know about that. And I don’t know, we’ll just I don’t know, maybe within the last few months, there was a little girl from Winnipeg, who got a bit of a scholarship to help pay for whatever camp stuff like that. I mean, I guess I think that’s what’s needed. Is, is just that awareness. I mean, I think it’s neat that I mean, you’ve since the second year you’re running your camp, you have a black instructor. I you know, I mean, your camp is diverse that way, right? First, also with ability as well.
Sami Jo: So, Billy, Billy in the slide. You mean
Roberta: Yes, exactly. Yeah, Billy, the kids are get to get to sit in and try sledge hockey. You know, it’s different. And I mean, I do notice like, well, it was odd doing the camp last summer, because you weren’t there.
Sami Jo: I know. For the first time ever, I had never. Yeah, I couldn’t fly in. Because of the quarantine.
Roberta: Yeah, yeah, just, you know, the video chats and stuff you would do.
Sami Jo: It made me realize that you guys are actually really good without me.
Roberta: Well we still miss you.
Sami Jo: Because, you know, like, I bring the snacks, I know my role.
Roberta: I had to make my own sandwiches, I know, stream all that. And I had to do a full day, which was really strange for me, and not just nice. But I did notice some more like these little one or two little black girls, and seeing their parents in the, you know, in the parking lot, and just kind of Hey, like it was it was kind of neat to see. Okay. Little kids that look like me, I think it’s neat that they weren’t any of the girls that I was on ice with. So that was one of the differences is normally when I as you know, when I do the four hours of on ice in the morning, I get to see every single kid. But now that because of COVID I worked with those little just a little group of 10 year old girls for the whole day. So yeah, I think it’s pretty neat to see that representation. I mean, we’ve talked about this before, I think representation matters, right? They need to see, you know, these brown and black girls playing at the national level to realize, Oh, that’s something that I can do. Sometimes I need to see somebody else doing it first.So I don’t know if this answers your question. You were here. The original question was about, you know what it was like to be one of the only brown people I notice it? I do notice I’m like, yeah, it’s, you know, I noticed more than that, I noticed the picture of Sue, I guess that induction photo with her with everybody who was being inducted. It was one woman, one brown person, very efficiently packaged into this tiny little frame. So it really was like, wow, like, this doesn’t, you know, this picture doesn’t look like Canada. You know, so, you know, there’s definitely some work to do. I mean, I don’t know, hockey isn’t the most accessible sport, financially. I mean, I don’t know if my parents would have been willing to pay, you know, spend $10,000 a year on me playing hockey I can’t imagine that they would have wanted me to do and they had jobs and everything right. And I don’t I don’t know that they would have wanted to spend that kind of money. Especially for girls like it when it’s a boy you can dream oh maybe he’s gonna make the big leagues for girls. You know there’s not going to be some big $5,000,000 a year opportunity at the end of it.
Sami Jo: Susie was telling me this great story about being on the rink recently. I think what the outdoor rinks and the ponds have really done is open it up for communities it’s opened it up for people to come down out of their houses or apartments wherever they happen to live in their boots just to check it out and grab a stick and run up and down the ice and then maybe borrow a pair of skates. Things that I feel that in my youth were more part of the community I would go to Norberry and it would be the people who live in Norberry would be playing there. Now I find having a young daughter and being involved in minor sport. It’s not about that. It’s about signing your kid up for hockey. You go at a certain time a structured time and that seems to be just how minor sports is it isn’t just about play and that’s’ what I love about the outdoor inks and taking the girls out there. These girls just get to try it. They are making ice cream cones out of snow and taking it to each other and that’s the best part about it. I feel like so many more people are going to come out of this pandemic, I’m hoping having shared in some collective community sport that maybe they wouldn’t have been touched by before and maybe that will open up hockey more.
Roberta: I hope so I’d like to see that just sort of that people playing at that level of it’s just a fun thing to do. Or just skating when we were skating on the river yesterday I just love skating and I just love seeing all these people skating. I know some of my coworkers who didn’t grow up in Canada. Who are just kind of like there is nothing else to do. We are Canadian now we need to learn how to skate. And just the idea they ordered their skates and just get out there because it looks like everyone is having all this fun. That’s what I want to see this thing you can do until your 80s hopefully. I am just like you we both wear knee pads when we skate. You wear your helmet too.
Sami Jo: I do always the time. I am always worried I am going to get slew footed by some little kid or I am going to hit a rivet. I figure I can be the one who looks like that and maybe others will also wear their helmets. I wear volleyball knee pads.
Roberta: That’s what I do too
Sami Jo: Safety first!
Roberta: I think it’s funny, I m a decent skater. I see lots of beginners and they wear nothing and they hate the sport because you fall. Just embrace the fall, wear some protective equipment hopefully you can actually enjoy it.
Sami Jo: I know little kids are in snow pants and snow jackets and that protects them. I still put little shin pads and elbow pads on. I wish I could wear this giant.
Sami Jo: That would be amazing
Roberta: When I saw the super-8’s my friend’s mom had taken of us, I was probably in my twenties. We are so tiny so and close to the ice. It’s a wonderful thing to learn at an age where falling is just part of life already you are not that far away from learned how to walk and you would have been falling all the time. And you haven’t forgotten that’s part of growth.
Sami Jo: Ya and you are just wobbly and its fine.
Roberta: Ya you are wobbly, you know you are going to fall . You don’t freak out and you are padded because you are in a onesy snowsuit. Onsey snow suits for all this is the answer to life!
Sami Jo: There is the crux of the whole podcast I love it
Roberta: To sum up, everyone needs a onesy
Sami Jo: That is a perfect way to end, I love that. I so appreciate you in my life and I love all of our conversations I feel like I could talk to you for hours and hours. Thank you for doing this , thank you for sharing your insights, thank you sharing your knowledge . I love so many of the one-liners that came from that hopefully people can grow in their own lives from. So thank you so much.
Roberta: This is cool thanks for including me in this Sami Jo.