She’s Got Game: A timely event to share and heal

Martha Billes, Chancellor of the University of Guelph, addresses the She's Got Game Gala at the university on Feb. 15


I attended the 5th Annual She’s Got Game Gala at the University of Guelph on Feb. 15. It’s an annual event to raise funds for and celebrate female athletes at the university.

The timing was interesting and fortunate. The event came after a brutal week for anyone associated with the university—I’m the golf coach—following the disclosure in The Globe and Mail of the horrific experience of former student athlete Megan Brown while she was coached by former track coach Dave Scott-Thomas in 2006. He was fired last fall.

As I milled about, engaging in small talk during the cocktail hour in the giant gymnasium, Brown’s trauma was in the back of my mind. I felt tense.

But upon meeting some senior administration folks, we immediately got into it, sharing quite openly about the emotional toll that it had taken on everyone, and how our hearts went out to Megan Brown and her father.

And in talking more about it, I could feel my own tension release, and I sensed the same with my compatriots.

While waiting for the dinner portion of the event to start, I sat alone at my table, and took in the scene, listening to the hubbub. I especially enjoyed watching the athletes, looking lovely and dressed to the nines, hugging, talking animatedly with each other, and posing for pictures. I felt joy inside, and in the room.

The timing was fortunate indeed, for everyone affiliated with female athletics at the university to come together, look each other in the eye, genuinely ask how you’re doing, and know that whatever is going on for you, the other person has your back. 

It reminded me of when my extended family comes together, whether it’s for a funeral, a wedding or a get-together, there’s a feeling of belonging, gratitude, and that there’s something strong here.

And just like at a family event, where the elders will say a few words, the senior university leaders who spoke from the stage directly addressed Brown’s traumatic experience, that the university has begun the work necessary to ensure that this never happens again, and that there is much left to do.

As more speakers, including student athletes, spoke, sharing their sadness, anger and feelings of determination, the grave seriousness of our collective responsibility hit me between the eyes. 

I was also reminded of the power of coming together and sharing. There is healing when we give voice to our troubles, whether it’s from a leader at a microphone, or in a private conversation.

It’s as if we have disgorged the poison that’s been roiling around in our guts. It’s a physical, mental and spiritual experience to say the words, feel the emotions in our bodies, and a communal experience to be with others in the good times and the bad.

There’s much, much more work to do to acknowledge the pain of Megan Brown, and to do everything possible to ensure that young athletes everywhere are safe and supported.

Looking around, listening and watching the events on stage and people at their tables, I felt a sense of awe for what these champion women athletes in that room had accomplished, what many had overcome, and for the powerful leaders that they are becoming and the tremendous influence that they will have on the world.

She’s got game, indeed.

About Tim O'Connor

Tim O'Connor is a golf coach, an award-winning writer, and speaker. Tim takes a holistic approach, coaching golfers in the physical and mental aspects of golf. He co-hosts the Swing Thoughts podcast with Howard Glassman, and is the author of The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story. He plays bass in CID—a Guelph punk band!