In preparation of International Women’s Day on March 8th, we would like to introduce Tara Ashwell, Athletic Therapist here at Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton, BC. Tara began working for Okanagan Hockey Group in 2017, shortly after graduating from Camosun College with a Bachelors Degree of Athletic and Exercise Therapy in 2015.
Prior to joining us, she worked two seasons as a Student Athletic Therapist with the Saanich Braves of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. She spent two seasons in the AJHL with the Olds Grizzlies as their Athletic Therapist and Equipment Manager. Tara has also served as an Athletic Therapist at events such as the BC Hockey U15 and U16 Male High Performance Program, the BC Hockey U18 Female High Performance Invitational Camp, 2016 Alberta Cup, as well as the 2017 Hockey Alberta Peewee Prospects Camp.
Growing up, Tara’s family was not heavily involved in sport, though they were always very supportive of her. As a kid she played soccer and ultimate frisbee, and absolutely loved theater arts! “It is actually kind of funny that I ended up pursuing a career in sport, though I am so happy that I did.” Tara states. Finishing Athletic Therapy School and earning her designation is a major milestone for Tara, something that she is very proud of.
As an Athletic Therapist, Tara provides professional care and rehabilitation for injuries. Alongside her incredible team, she is sure to keep everyone informed about what is happening; being transparent with both athletes and families. If there are any questions, Tara is diligent and ensures everyone is in the know by keeping them updated and educated. Our student athletes have full access to our Athletic Therapists as they are available 24/7, and are always just a phone call away whenever they are away from the rink. “We make sure that we are available all of the time, which maintains consistency when working with coaches and athletes. We always want to keep that open communication going,” says Tara.
Helping athletes understand the difference between being injured or being hurt is crucial to the educational process. Encouraging our athletes to push through minor discomfort that is not going to make things worse actually helps. “Often times, sore muscles are good!” Tara explains. “Educating our athletes and their families on prehab vs. rehab is critical to their development.”
Providing education on preventative techniques is a key component to Tara’s role. There are a lot of things you can do before the injury occurs rather than waiting until after the injury has happened” Tara states. “Building a knowledge base on their own bodies is so important. Every body is different and our athletes need to remember this.” Our athletic therapists facilitate prevention seminars once every couple of weeks for our student athletes in the academy, to ensure that this education is consistent and relevant.
Over the years, Tara has had the opportunity to work with so many athletes throughout her career so far, which has been an amazing experience. She completed her clinical placement in five different settings, giving her exposure to a mixture of treatment styles. “I have treated a variety of injuries, and every day there is something different happening”, mentions Tara. “As much as we have a daily routine, things can always change on a dime.”
Working with eight teams here in the academy, Tara is grateful to learn and grow each day. “I truly enjoy doing something different each and every day… this keeps my job interesting and exciting,” states Tara.
As a young professional working in the field of sport, Tara has faced multiple barriers in the past, which have been challenging to overcome. It was her positive attitude that kept her moving forward, encouraging her to push through. “As a female in sport, people often assume that you are not ‘as’ qualified. I have been questioned in ways that I never would have been if I was a male. Even though I have had the same skill set and education as a male co-worker, it is clear that these barriers still exist today”, states Tara. Working at Okanagan Hockey Group has given Tara the opportunity to work alongside many inspiring females within the organization. “Having a strong female as a leader is inspiring. Heather Perrin, Manager of Athletic Therapy and Medical Services, is somebody I look up to as she leads by example. The fact that we also have two female teams within our academy is absolutely incredible” states Tara.
“Hearing stories from a number of other females who have been in my shoes previously, can sometimes be discouraging, however I do my best to remain confident”, Tara comments. It is evident that these stereotypes still exist and we all need to be aware of them. “My expectations do not lower because I am a female,” says Tara, when referring to her treatment style.
Tara’s advice to anyone that has experienced anything like this is “be confident in your abilities from day one and stand your ground. If you show your worth, the people you really want to work with are going to see your work ethic, not your gender.”
This young professional is passionate about her career and is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve her goals. “It is not a breeze, and it most certainly is not easy. You are going to have to fight, but it will all be worth it in the end”, Tara says. By taking advantage of opportunities, Tara has had many doors open to bigger and better things. “I was willing to prove myself by not getting discouraged, and I am forever proud of myself for this.”
Moving away from her home town on Vancouver Island is one of those opportunities that Tara refers to. She was excited about expanding her horizons and making connections within other cities. Her curiosity has ignited her adventurous side, where now resides in Penticton, BC. Along with the extensive amount of experience that came of this move, she also met her boyfriend who inspires and motivates her to achieve her goals.
The rewarding career path that Tara has chosen also motivates her each day. “When an athlete is getting close to the end of their rehab, and you get to tell them ‘you’re going back on the ice today’, is what I look forward to. Their excitement just proves that what I do matters”, comments Tara.
Tara is very soft spoken and incredibly kind, and we are so fortunate to have her as a member of our team here at OHA. This young professional is exceptionally devoted & passionate, and her curiosity is going to take her far in her career. Tara represents all females within sport; in all areas of the game. She is a dedicated activist, making big moves for women in sport.
Written by: Michayla Fraser (BSM)
Playing at OHA was great. I had great billet families and made great relationships with people I still keep in touch with. It was a really good learning experience for me being away from home playing hockey, which set me up to go play junior.