Saying “yes” to everything is not advice most get when they’re growing up, but for Chelsey Clifford saying “yes” has gotten her two degrees, three jobs, and an international teaching opportunity.
Clifford, who graduated from the University of Regina in spring 2016, has been with Girls in the Game since 2010. What started out as a casual inquiry in her first year of university has turned into a full-fledged passion. Along with being the programs manager, she is also the Executive Director of I Can Play Sports and works with Regina Youth Volleyball League.
Even at 8 a.m., Clifford appears well put together. She has a pep in her step as she greets me with a cheery smile, full of energy. She is ready to tackle the day, whatever it may bring.
Born and raised in Regina, Clifford grew up with a very active lifestyle, playing softball, volleyball, curling, and recently rugby. Getting into organizations allowed for Clifford to be mentored by Girls in the Game creator June Zimmer and in turn become a role model for other young girls in the organization. “I feel like there’s an obligation to give back,” she said. “The girls are a lot more comfortable and I can establish this relationship with them that is very unique.”
Girls in the Game started in 2008 and has evolved over the years. The programs are not solely about the skills of sport, but are geared towards the physical and mental health benefits that go along with an active lifestyle. Over her seven years with the program, Clifford knows it is about more than just playing a sport. “I see that there’s a need not to create a love for sport, but just a love for physical activity and the health components. I think that needs to start at a younger age.” Her training in education helps her teach the girls within the organization.
Through her involvement she has also noticed that high school students tend to think that they need to be at the gym to get the physical activity when really it can be as simple as making little lifestyle changes such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or not parking in the closest parking spot so that you walk a little more. She wants to continue the aspect of education to that high school age group, which is not catered to through Girls in the Game.
Kaylan Berg has been working with Clifford over the past couple of months at Girls in the Game and has experienced her affection for what she does. “She’s so passionate and positive and just a pleasure to work with,” Berg said. “She’s very professional, very knowledgeable; knows the program inside and out”
Clifford graduated with a Bachelor of Kinesiology and Health Studies along with a Bachelor of Education at the University of Regina. However early on, there were other possibilities. “My first year of university I actually had a dual scholarship for (a university in) the States. I had applied, I had bought a plane ticket, I basically just didn’t get on the plane,” she explained. “Being 18 I don’t know if I was just scared to leave home or if boys were involved, I don’t know, but that school offered nursing and so I would have been a nurse.”
This ‘fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants’ approach is not a one-off. Even after deciding on the University of Regina, Clifford wondered if kinesiology was the right choice. Her go-with-the-flow attitude is how Clifford got to where she is with Girls in the Game. “I never planned for it. I never said ‘no’ either… I think that was the big thing, never saying ‘no’, just saying ‘yes’ and making it work.”
Clifford says her future is not entirely laid out. “The end goal is not planned because I don’t want to say no to different opportunities as the years go on.” In April her latest opportunity will take her to Leeds, England to try out being a teacher.
“It will be big shoes to fill,” Kaylan said. “She does a lot and she does it well.”