‘Take the journey one step at a time’: A message from Cavalry FC’s Linda Southern-Heathcott on International Women’s Day

Throughout March, the Canadian Premier League will celebrate the contributions and showcase the impact of the women of the Canadian Premier League. We are proud to recognize the influence the women of our League have on our community both individually and collectively. We hope their stories inspire girls and women to see a future in our beautiful game, whether on the field or off it, because if she can see it, she can be it.

On International Women’s Day, Cavalry FC’s Linda Southern-Heathcott, Olympian, President and CEO of Spruce Meadows Ltd, owner of Cavalry FC, shares her personal experience as a passionate and influential builder in Canadian sport:

I am so very fortunate because I had a supportive mother and father. They taught me not only to dream big, but to work hard and stay focused.

In any sport, we mostly see the elite athletes who excelled at the top level, but there’s not enough focus on the grassroots and ways to develop and enable the athletes to succeed. That is why our family started Spruce Meadows, to give back to the community and to offer young, up-and-coming athletes the opportunity to develop their skills at home in Canada, and to be ready for the world stage. Spruce Meadows has been successful in being an important contributor to Canada’s ability to achieve Olympic success in the discipline of show jumping.

So, when the opportunity came to mirror in soccer what we had done in equestrian, I thought, “Why not?”

Prior to my leadership roles, I experienced a great sporting career. Having achieved success as a young athlete, winning Junior and Young Riders Championships, representing the Canadian Equestrian team for over 15 years, my equestrian career culminated with representing Canada at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. My sport was equestrian, and it is one of the very few Olympic sports where men and women compete with, and directly against, one another on an equal playing field. I learned early on that you cannot let people intimidate you, you must believe in yourself, believe in your hard work, believe in your talent and be willing to take risks.

In my experience, to be successful in a leadership role you must work hard and be creative. If you have a good idea, don’t let anyone stop you or discourage you, but also be willing to take criticism. Don’t be afraid to show emotion, be empathetic, be honest about your strengths and weaknesses and encourage others to do the same. Most of all, be willing to roll up your sleeves and do the hard work. Be there every day, consistently.

I personally never found that it was a challenge to work in a male-dominated sport or industry, as that is all I’ve ever known from when I first started in sport and in business. If you are prepared, do the work every day consistently, present your ideas in a thoughtful manner, dream big, and go after those dreams to turn them into reality, you will succeed.

The message I would give to young women that want to pursue their dreams is: Take the journey one step at a time. There will be highs and lows. Always take the time to learn from both, as they teach us about ourselves. Don’t hold back, keep moving forward and believe that you can do anything you set your mind to. Go for it!