Volkswagen Canada and the Canadian Premier League have been on a nationwide search to find Change Makers in our communities. We’ve been looking for stories about unsung heroes in local soccer communities, those who are going above and beyond to drive inclusivity, accessibility and change for the better. Change Makers are leaders, on and off the field. We are happy to present our three finalist Change Makers. Now, it’s up to you to help decide our winner. Read their unique stories and vote for your favourite. You can vote once daily until the closing date of October 6th. Help us crown our 2021 CPL & Volkswagen Canada Community Change Maker!
For more information, and to vote for one of the nominees, click here.
A player for 37 years, a referee for 30 and a coach for 15, soccer has always been a staple in Tammy MacSweyn’s life. With virtually a lifetime as a community leader in the Glengarry County area, MacSweyn’s resumé testifies to her vast impact on those within the local area.
But having a life-long connection to soccer is not an unusual story for MacSweyn. Given the almost 100-year-old history of the Glengarry Soccer League (GSL), the organization has a strong connection to her family.
“As a family, we’ve been involved in it for as long as I’ve known, and as long as I can remember,” said MacSweyn. “[For] everyone local, there are lots of people tied to the GSL.”
“Back in the glory days, soccer championships, the playoff finals, they would have 500-600 people on the sidelines watching these soccer games. All these things bring our community together.”
Her grandparents, mother, father and brother, plus aunts, uncles and cousins were all involved with the organization at some point – many of which she humbly mentioned were top scorers and MVP award winners. MacSweyn herself started playing at five years old.
Having a long-time association with the league, she has an extreme familiarity with recognizing the benefits of organized sports.
Once it was time to hang up her cleats, however, MacSweyn did not put soccer behind her. Instead, she moved up in the ranks and acted as an area representative for 15 years before moving on to her current role as league vice president which she has held for the past six. All in addition to her time coaching, refereeing, helping with a local senior hockey team, acting as a director for the Glengarry Highland Games and her full-time job as a grade 7/8 teacher at Glengarry District High School.
Yet regardless of how much is on her plate, MacSweyn remains up to the challenge. “How do I balance it?”, she laughs. “It’s a lot of juggling.”
“I try to fill the need if there’s something that we are looking for in the area.”
And she has been seemingly undertaking every role with ease. For her, the highlight of helping local youth get involved in sport is presenting young athletes with a surplus of opportunities.
“It’s big for the community, it’s big for the development of social skills and friendships. These friendships will last a lifetime just from playing soccer and friendships from rivalries that stand the test of time. It’s good for the community, it gets people involved,” she said.
Her dedication to help young athletes thrive continued to flourish even in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. When push came to shove, MacSweyn once again found herself stepping up in the community.
As a result of the two-year hiatus, the GSL experienced a shortage of referees yet when it came time for kickoff, the league’s vice president did not hesitate to grab her whistle and officiate. And her efforts still didn’t stop there.
“I spent half of my game refereeing, but also at the same time, I was spending the rest of my time trying to coach these kids,” said MacSweyn. “So, I was coaching them trying to teach them positions, trying to teach them how to do throw-ins properly, where to put the ball on a corner kick and stuff.”
“I was focusing to try and help that team and help develop their confidence.”
Her willingness to go the extra mile did not go unnoticed. Spectators, parents and grandparents on the sidelines shared their appreciation afterwards. It is an assumed feeling many have shared throughout MacSweyn’s tenure in the soccer community regardless of what role she held which she found “flattering.” Her influence has undeniably impacted countless lives over the years.
“I feel like I’ve impacted several people having coached for more than 15 years … a lot of those kids developed into phenomenal soccer players and then they played with me,” she said. “It’s nice to keep tabs on them and see their progress and then see their children who are now coming up.”
Still, the prominent community leader, who acts as an integral gear within the GSL’s system, insists she cannot take all the credit. She emphasizes every member with a role in the Glengarry soccer community, no matter how small, remains a crucial part to the league’s success.
“The GSL isn’t what it is without the whole group and many, many volunteers. The volunteers are really what make the GSL be able to do, and offer, what we can offer to the community. Without their support, there is no soccer.”
Despite having an impact on the community for almost a generation, MacSweyn admitted she is not considering leaving the scene just yet. In fact, more community members are already asking her about taking on future roles.
“Wherever I go, I’m tied into soccer somewhere … I can never get away from soccer. It follows me everywhere I go,” she said laughingly.
“I do [what I do] because there is a need for it, as opposed to ‘Look at me I’m doing something for soccer.’ [That’s] not my purpose, it is to help out and get the game going and keep the game going.”
Click here to read about the other nominees for the Volkswagen Community Change Maker Award.