Christine Sinclair headlines group of soccer stars to kick it in Fredericton
Members of bronze-medal teams from 2012 and 2016 Olympics will hold youth camp
Four of Canada's most accomplished soccer players are in Fredericton this weekend teaching and mentoring young players.
Christine Sinclair, Karina LeBlanc, Rhian Wilkinson and Diana Matheson will hold camps for players and take part in a few public events while in the city.
The four women have impressive credentials, competing in World Cups and winning bronze medals with the Canadian National Soccer Team at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.
- Canadian soccer icon Christine Sinclair appointed to Order of Canada
- Canadian women repeat as Olympic soccer bronze medallists
- Canada defeats France 1-0 for Olympic bronze in soccer
While skills will be a part of the camp, Wilkinson said the goal is empowerment not skill.
"We're giving the gift to a child of saying you don't need to be the best," Wilkinson said.
"To be OK with not being the best and still liking what you're doing."
Wilkinson said one of the criticisms she has of some parents is how they choose sports for their children to play, often overlooking what the children enjoy in favour of what they're good at.
"I was not the best soccer player on my team by far," said Wilkinson.
"I just really enjoyed it and it became a passion from that."
Soccer has grown a lot in Canada over the past decade. Much of this can be attributed to the performance of the women's national team and its success competing at the Olympics and hosting the World Cup.
But Wilkinson said it was a controversial loss to the U.S. women's team at the 2012 London Olympics that gave the sport a boost.
"I feel that the injustice, or the feeling of injustice, that came from that game, the refereeing, was probably the thing that brought the Canadians together," she said.
"We didn't win that game, but it seemed to galvanize the country."
On the right course
Wilkinson said she thinks Canada is on the right course for continued success in women's soccer.
"I think we've set up a network across Canada where youth are now getting top coaches delivering every day,"
"The expectation is an Olympic medal now. It's not a pipe dream, it's now gold."
That doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement.
Wilkinson said players on the men's national team are still paid more than the women's team members. The women's team is ranked 5th overall by FIFA, topped by only the United States, Germany, England and France. The men's national team is ranked 96th by FIFA.
Norway beat us to the punch, in that they have just announced their female and male players are going to be paid equally.- Rhian Wilkinson, member of national soccer team
Wilkinson said she expects pay equity to happen sooner rather than later.
"We should be there now," said Wilkinson.
"Norway beat us to the punch, in that they have just announced their female and male players are going to be paid equally. I think that should've been us and I think we should be next."