A safe space and mentorship for girls to rise with Elle Kerfoot
When I was 12 I had a coach - Ms. Tremblay. I worshiped her. I was going to school in inner-city Ottawa at the time with kids from all over the world due to the influx of refugees at the time.
We may not have spoken the same language, but we all loved sports - especially volleyball and basketball. Every morning we would sneak into the gym to play.
One morning Ms. Tremblay found us. She yelled for a while about mutiny - none of us had any idea what that word even meant! I looked it up later and remember feeling badly but there must have been something in her tone that let me know that she wasn't really mad.
Looking back on it, I realize that she was probably happy to see us playing together on our own – team building. Girls breaking the rules to do what they love. She knew our mutiny would make us stronger as a team in the end and this was true. We loved the gym, each other, our coach and man, did we ever win a lot of games!
Fast forward 30 (ish) years. I have a daughter who loves basketball. A couple of years ago, I heard about a female trainer - Elle Kerfoot - who had recently opened her own gym so we went to check her out. From the minute I met Elle memories of Ms. Tremblay hit me and I knew she was the one for my daughter.
We chatted while my daughter warmed up.
Me: She’s not very fast. She needs to get stronger. Too bad she’s not taller.
Elle: She reminds me of me when I was a kid - is she a gym rat?
Me: Yes she is – she is obsessed. She plays constantly at any hoop she can find.
Elle: She will grow, she will get stronger. She loves the game. That’s what’s important.
The voices of so many of both of my daughters' coaches and a society who condition girls and women to live with self-doubt fell away and I instantly aligned with Elle’s voice. It was the voice of Ms. Tremblay.
Elle Kerfoot has created a space where girls can build confidence. In retrospect, I realize that Ms. Tremblay did this as well. If one of our team members was injured, they didn’t drop out or become bench warmers - they were given a different role - team manager and the nickname Hop-a-Long to go with it.
Elle recognizes the valuable and unique quality in every athlete. They all have nicknames too. The littlest is called Banana, there is a Kayla Curry (after Steph - obvi.) and my daughter is Abz. Girls who are serious rivals competing for limited club spots and high school provincial championships visit on the couch, do their homework and cuddle with Elle's dog Bean visiting before and after practice. In fact, Elle often has to politely kick them out at the end of the night long after training has ended. Each athlete leaves feeling good about herself, her work and her relationships.
When I interviewed Elle for my You Tube Channel I asked how she is able to bring competing kids together to train.
I have tried to create an environment that is safe and welcoming.
I went home and thought about this and realized there are few places in an athlete’s world where they can really feel safe.
In games/practices they are under constant scrutiny and evaluation by their teammates & coaches. This is necessary and is how strategy, playing time and lines are determined.
It takes a lot of mental energy to take risks to improve your game by trying new skills under those circumstances and although top athletes are able to do this it is not easy – particularly for teenaged girls who are at such a self-conscious time in their life.
At Elle's warehouse, girls try new skills - screw up - are cheered on by the other athletes and Elle - try again - screw up until eventually they nail it and hopefully have the confidence to take their new skill into a practice and better yet a game.
It is the safety that she talks about that is unique and allows for real individual and ultimately team growth.