Lumberjill turned timber sports athlete ready to prove she's a cut above
Alicia Schroeder was introduced to timber sports while in college and has been competing ever since
Being a lumberjill is more than just a hobby, says Alicia Schroeder. She's an avid axe-thrower and wood-chopper and the Maritime Lumberjack Association's "most improved" for 2018.
The 28-year-old has been participating in timber sports, high-intensity competitions that include axe-throwing, wood-chopping and sawing with speed and accuracy. She's been competing for seven years.
Schroeder said she was too shy to try out for a sports team while in college, despite being an active person, but in her second year, she was encouraged to join the school's timber sports team by her friends.
"I like to try something aside from the norm so I've grown up hunting and fishing and stuff that girls don't usually do, and timber sports seemed to fit in with the outdoors person in me, so I thought I'd give it a try," Schroeder said.
Schroeder started competing while studying at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, which is now part of Dalhousie University.
"It was something that I always felt like I could get better at, so that's what kept me hooked on it," she said.
Now, she spends most of her free time practising at her home in Douglas with her boyfriend, Doug Armsworthy. Together they travel around Atlantic Canada to compete.
"My first competition I was so nervous and even now I still get super nervous before I compete every time — I get tunnel vision, I get shaky, but I think that's all part of it," she said.
"I think that just shows that I really care about it and have a passion for it."
Schroeder and Armsworthy attend about 10 competitions each summer.
The pair met in university as rivals. Armsworthy was competing for the University of New Brunswick at the time.
"We just spend time together through the ups and downs of the days and the competitions and stuff like that," said Armsworthy, who's been competing since 2011.
"It's a lot of emotion and it's just fun to have someone to do it with."
Although Schroeder has been competing for seven years, she's still considered a newbie, but she has decided to work toward doing it professionally.
"It's not something I would want to do as a hobby just because it's a lot of sacrifices financially and with your time," she said.
Schroeder said the sport keeps her schedule busy in the summer and it can be expensive to purchase axes, saws and wood on top of travel costs.
"I hope to keep getting better and I think I have a long career ahead of me," she said.
Schroeder and Armsworthy practice year-round and share a home with a garage so they can practice during the winter.
"In the wintertime, -30, it isn't fun being outside," Armsworthy said. "So when you have the chance to be indoors and extend your training time, it helps you progress as an athlete."
Although the sport involves a lot of physical training, Schroeder said timber sports takes more than just strength.
"People see the sport and they say, 'Oh, you must be so strong or you have to be in good shape to do that,' but I think the biggest challenge is the mental side of it because your head really has to be in it," she said.
Schroeder said she practises most evenings and said the sport has improved her mental health.
"It's something that you really have to believe in yourself to be able to do and I think a lot of people, not just myself, have a hard time doing that sometimes," she said.
And believing in herself paid off. She was one of eight women in Canada to qualify for the STIHL Timbersports Canadian Championship in Wasaga Beach, Ont. in 2018. She placed eighth in the competition.
"Just getting to the Canadian championship last year and getting to compete with the best in Canada, that really meant a lot to me," she said.
Schroeder has competitions lined up for the summer and will be competing in the Canadian Axe Throwing Championships at the end of August.
She said she hopes to keep improving and eventually get back to the national timber sports championships.
"I just have to put in the practice and believe in myself," she said.
"And then, if you put in the practice, you see the results in competitions and there's nothing more rewarding than that and last year, I had a really successful year and I'm hoping to continue that with my future."