On February 24, 2021, Field Hockey Ontario (FHO) hosted a Q&A session with Sandra Levy, Chief People Officer at the Canadian Olympic Committee, in honour of Black History Month.
Levy, whose playing career included an 11-year run with the Women’s National Team, is a two-time Olympian who competed at Seoul 1988 and Barcelona 1992. She is also a Pan American silver and bronze medallist and served as the Chef de Mission at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games. When looking back at her accolades, it’s hard to imagine that field hockey only started for her when she was in grade nine.
Growing up in Scarborough, Ontario, Levy recalls the sport being new to her. At first, she held the stick on the left side and often outran the ball as a cross-country athlete. She eventually made the ‘B Team’, but it was through her coaches that she was able to grow as a player.
“What I learned, and what my coach was fantastic at…is the patience when you see potential,” Levy said. “[It is] such an important thing to feed and work with potential, and give athletes the attention even before they look great. That made such a huge difference in my life.”
Levy went on to play in the Ontario field hockey program under Liz Hoffman and then Marina van der Merve at York University and in the national program. Surrounded by strong and capable individuals, she was able to fulfill her dream of being an Olympian — a goal she’s had since watching the 1976 Montreal Games.
“To actually achieve [my dream] and to walk out with Canada on my back in the Opening Ceremonies is exhilarating,” Levy said. “Still, to this day, it is one of the greatest experiences of my life that I’m obviously proud of, but I feel blessed to have had.”
After experiencing a diverse field hockey community in the club system, Levy recalls that the sport wasn’t one a lot of non-white athletes turned to. At times, she would be the only Black person in town, or feel strongly toward certain issues like the Australian Bicentenary that disregarded Indigenous populations.
Though most of her experiences have been positive, it’s truly a responsibility to care for and be aware of these pressing issues within race, equity and inclusion — not just for women of colour, but for society as a whole.
“If you want to move the needle in this space or be an ally, then you have to be a teacher. You have to listen…and allow people to tell their truths and have the courage to believe that that is their truth, even if it’s not yours.”
Happy Black History Month! Field Hockey Canada is committed to honouring the legacy and impact of Black Canadians within the field hockey community, and to making the sport more inclusive. For more information on Black History Month, please click here. To watch the Racism in Sports and Effective Allyship Panel as part of the 2020 Field Hockey Canada Conference, please click here.