I listen to my teammates talk about their bodies and it’s a constant reminder of the power of sport in building self-confidence and positive body image. “I want to add some weight sessions over the holidays so I don’t lose muscle” and “I lost five pounds over the tour and I’ll need to gain it back quickly” are common things I hear these days. As athletes, getting stronger, faster and fitter is what we drive our bodies to do. We are not concerned with much else because we view our bodies as vehicles to reach our goals. At the age of 32, I can honestly say I love my body. This wasn’t always the truth. The difficulty of straying from narrow ideas of femininity and beauty nearly held me back from being where I am today in sport.
When I was younger I didn’t like having muscular arms or legs. I would avoid wearing tank tops and tie hoodies around my waist to hide my butt. If you saw a picture of me back then you wouldn’t even notice anything but a regular girl, but I was self-critical as most girls are. I didn’t want to look different than my friends.
When I first started playing rugby I said to my brother that I don’t want to play for Canada because I don’t want to be huge and bulky and I don’t want to look masculine. I’m embarrassed that those words came out of my mouth. I kept playing rugby and a few years later I was asked to try out for the national sevens team. I knew nothing about the expectations of a national level athlete. I had never lifted weights or trained outside of set practices in rugby or any other sport. The strength and conditioning (S&C) coach at the time was explaining a typical training schedule and my first thought was: “I don’t want to become too muscular and I don’t want my body to change.” I actually had the audacity to ask the S&C coach if I could add long distance running to my program so I would stay lean. He looked at me like I was crazy. Needless to say I did not make the cut that camp. Fortunately I had a chance to come back that summer and try out again. I started to train really hard, letting go of worries about my body. The goal of making the national team and having the chance to represent Canada at the 2009 7s World Cup became my focus.
From my experience, being thin or having a certain body type does not lead to happiness or confidence. I have learned that confidence comes from working hard and achieving goals; It grows from over-coming challenges and getting up after you’ve been knocked down. My positive body image came from pushing myself in the gym, at training, at the track, etc., and experiencing the way it could perform. Using your body to do things that you love, whether it’s running, cycling, hiking, yoga, or playing rugby, promotes a healthier perspective towards it. I wish I could go back in time and tell my 16 year-old-self to love her body and to focus on what it can do rather than what it looks like.
People used to say to me: “You don’t look like a rugby player.” I don’t hear those words very often anymore. I look like an athlete and I’m proud of it.
Brittany Waters has represented Canada in four World Cups, she played a key roll in helping her team bring home two silver medals, one in 7s and one in 15s. Brittany had an international 7s career from 2007-2014, and is a current international 15s player and has been since earning her first cap in 2008. After graduating with a BA in Psychology and Sociology she went on to earn a Masters degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Victoria. Fittingly, Brittany is now the head coach of the women’s Vikes program at the University of Victoria.
Photographs by Krystal Calver of CalverPhotography
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