From Christie Blatchford National Post
They were the heart of one of the greatest and most storied Canadian teams in history, and now they’ve formed a ewal company called iS4 — to better teach the joys and rewards of teamwork to the nation. Christine Sinclair, Diana Matheson, Rhian Wilkinson and goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc are iS4, which stands for I Strive Four.
Sinclair, Matheson and Wilkinson led the Canadian soccer women to a second consecutive Olympic bronze medal last summer in Rio; LeBlanc retired last year. But it was their first bronze — in London in 2012 — that captured the Canadian imagination in a way that probably only hockey had done so before and marked them as part of the generation that brought the women’s game into the bright lights and big time.
Their company, which will formally kick off Wednesday 2nd November 2016 in Burnaby with a press conference and a soccer camp for kids from Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart program, means, Sinclair said in a telephone interview, “we can create something that could last for years to come.”
Since that 2012 bronze medal, the foursome has been holding development camps for youth across the country and speaking to corporations.
But it was on an ad hoc basis, when they could fit it in with their punishing pro and national team soccer schedules, and was open only to those already affiliated with a club, got a scholarship or who could afford the price of the camps.
Christie Blatchford says that Canada’s women get bronze for playing soccer, but they are golden for their dedication to each other and the game
• Rio will go down as a celebration of Canadian women who wear their hearts — and country — on their sleeves. “That’s why we’re partnering with Jumpstart,” Sinclair said. “If this (a soccer camp) was something that if I had been around when I was a kid, I couldn’t have gone. My parents wouldn’t have been able to send me to a one- or two-day camp.
“This will be available to everyone,” she said, because Jumpstart will pick up the tab for low-income families.
With LeBlanc already retired — and just married, too — and Wilkinson expected to officially pack it in soon, it means that when the national team schedule gets intense, as it will again in two years for the next Women’s World Cup, they can do the lion’s share of the work as Sinclair and Matheson get busy on the pitch.
The unique thing about their corporate presentations, where they preach the transferability of teamwork from sports to boardroom, is that when a company books a camp with iS4, ideally they get all four women.
“We realized pretty early on that’s what separates us from other athletes,” Matheson said in an interview from her parents’ Oakville, Ont. home. “Instead of one person speaking for 45 minutes or something, as soon as you get the four of us together, you get that team dynamic.”
When they first began doing this sort of work, Matheson said, each woman would speak for 15 minutes or so, “but it’s the interaction between us that makes it more fun. We enjoy each other. And you get four different types of people: Christine is quieter, Rhian is all heart…” And they do have their own stories to tell.
As Sinclair said, of the messages they try to give young people, “Diana talks about coming back from injuries; Karina was cut from a team and talks about that; my talk is about wanting these kids to find something they’re passionate about — to this day, I don’t consider it a job.
“And with Rhian, it’s all about hard work. There’s no magic formula, it’s outworking the people you’re competing with.”
As Sinclair put it, when they present to a company, “We have a plan, but it always goes off script; we know each other so well. I love doing it, up there with three of my best friends.”
Plus, for the famously quiet and reserved Sinclair, “It’s more comfortable for me.”
Among them, they have 63 years of national team experience, three Olympic Games under their belts, two bronze medals and an assortment of university degrees: In short, they’re a preposterously well-qualified group.
Does it ever get exhausting, Sinclair and Matheson were asked, to demand nothing but the best effort from yourself?
“Not so far,” Matheson said. “It’s probably easier when you’re with your teammates and friends, so if you’re slacking off, the others are there to pick you up.”
As for the famous captain, she admitted that, “I want to do the best I can,” in whatever it is. But Sinclair added, with an audible snicker, “With that, also I vacation well.” She was in Denver, she said, “literally doing nothing” with friends.
The fab four are now in their 30s, and, as Matheson said, all grown up: LeBlanc is newly married; Wilkinson was off “on a boat somewhere in the Mediterranean,” and Matheson has just bought her first house in Toronto.