It was exciting to hear UTS alumna Cassidy Kunicyn ’14 deliver this inspiring speech at the OFSAA Senior Girls Soccer banquet, hosted by UTS on Wednesday morning. Soccer has inspired Cassidy to excel and to build character. Through soccer she has deepened her appreciation of the value of good sportsmanship over winning. Her perspective and priorities demonstrate her maturity and thoughtfulness.
I would like to say how much of an honour it is to speak at this OFSAA banquet. I've been fortunate enough to attend my fair share of OFSAA banquets but never once did I think I was going to speak at one. I am very grateful for this opportunity.
I’ve had a lot of experience playing soccer at different levels and see the positives in all of them. I began playing when I was 5 years old, played club soccer from the age of 10, played in all of my 4 years of high school, and I’ve been competing at the collegiate level for 3 years now.
High school, for me, was one of my favourite opportunities to play soccer. There are a few reasons why. First, I got to miss a lot of school, especially when I qualified for OFSAA! It was always nice to have those extra breaks when school got stressful – or just in general. Second, it brought back and enhanced my passion for the sport that I fell in love with when I was a kid.
One thing that I’ve noticed over the years playing club, and especially now in university, is that there is so much emphasis on winning and being perfect that people often forget that we play soccer because it’s fun and because we have a passion for the sport. I find that sometimes I lose my passion for the sport because of that focus on winning.
Coaches have a large influence on this. They set the tone for the environment in which you play. I was fortunate enough to have a great high school team and great coaches – shout out to (VP) Mr. Chalmers and (Systems & Applications Support Specialist) Simon (Cheng) – you guys are great! They created a positive environment that allowed the team to work together cohesively and just have fun. I did not have to worry about being perfect or making mistakes. I could just focus on enjoying the sport and playing how I wanted to play. You should all thank your coaches for all the work they have put into the team. If it were not for them you wouldn’t be here today.
The last reason why I liked high school soccer is that it let me grow as a player. When I first came to UTS, I thought I was a hotshot! I had the most experience on the team and was one of the better players. I let my competitive side and my ego take over and that did not benefit the team at all. I would get so frustrated at my team and that would lead me to shut down. I remember a few times my coach asking me during half time what I thought about the half, and I wouldn’t say anything. I wouldn’t give my team advice because I didn’t think it would help. Oh, how wrong I was! Eventually I learned that everyone on the team was equal. It didn’t matter that I had more experience than most of the other players or that I was technically better: I was no more important than anyone else.
Once I came to this realization, I began to take a leadership role. I knew that by sharing my experience and knowledge of the sport, I could help others improve their skills. I was also fortunate enough to be captain for two years. On my club team, I was never much of a leader. Most of my teammates were national team players or provincial players and I felt that it wasn’t necessary for me to be a leader. High school gave me that opportunity. It gave me more confidence and, ultimately, let me grow as a player. I have always struggled with my confidence and leadership abilities, and high school soccer gave me the chance to develop these skills. So even though high school soccer was not as high a level of competition as I was used to, it played an important role in the soccer player I am today.
Some advice that I can give to you all is to take advantage of these next few days. OFSAA is what you make of it. I have some wonderful memories of these tournaments and I hope that you have the same positive experience that I had. Who doesn’t love taking team ice baths or running up and down a field for 90 minutes?! These next few days, you’ll have to the opportunity to make many great memories that you’ll remember on and off the field.
You also have the opportunity to do something great: you have the chance to win OFSAA and that’s very exciting. Winning OFSAA is not an easy accomplishment, though. You must all put in the effort if you want your team to be successful. Everyone has a part to play on the team – all you need to do is find your part. Mine was more of a leadership role and yours could too, or it could be something completely different. Just remember that each and every one of you is important to the team and contributes to the success of the team. You win and lose as a team.
Most importantly though, just have fun. Although winning is nice, it is not the most important thing. I completely understand how great it feels to win and how disappointing it is to lose – trust me. Over my four years of high school, I qualified for nine OFSAA competitions, competed in eight, and never once won a medal. It was extremely frustrating to compete in all of those competitions and never win anything. To make matters even worse, UTS decided to win an OFSAA medal the year after I graduated. Still very salty by the way…!
Although I was never able to win an OFSAA medal, I still had some amazing experiences that were shared with incredible teammates and coaches. I have memories to last a lifetime. I grew as a player and learned a lot that I couldn’t have learned anywhere else. I am very grateful for the opportunities I had while at UTS.
I just want to wish you all the best of luck during this competition. Play hard and, most importantly, have fun. Thank you.
Cassidy Kunicyn is the recipient of a soccer scholarship at the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM). She is pictured above (at left) during a ULM game.