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The Dream For A Women’s Pro Baseball League

Ashley Stephenson | Women’s National Baseball Team Coach | Baseball Canada

I think the men’s professional leagues could easily help fund female leagues but that would mean they would have to invest in us, and they aren’t interested in doing that.

Ashley Stephenson

Women’s National Baseball Team Coach

Baseball Canada

× The interview with Ashley Stephenson was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

Tell us about your role as the Women’s National Baseball Coach for Baseball Canada. What does a typical day look like for you?

My typical day doesn’t often involve baseball specifically, because I am not a fulltime paid coach.  I am actually a high school teacher. This is my 13th year teaching for the Halton District School Board. 

My day starts by walking my dog before I head to school around 7:30 am.  Then, classes run from 8:40am until 2:50pm.  After school I coach.

The school year starts with field hockey season, then I move to coaching the boy’s hockey team in the winter and finally in the spring I coach the boy’s baseball team.  Practices start at 3pm and will go until 4:30-5pm.

My evenings are filled with a variety of things; from working out, marking or lesson planning, refereeing university level hockey in Ontario and Zoom meetings with players and prospects from our National Team. I definitely don’t let the grass grow under my feet for very long, but I like it that way!

You played for the Canadian Women’s National Baseball team since 2004 and became one of the most decorated players on the field. What has the transition been like for you going from athlete to coach?

The transition was actually pretty smooth. Initially, I was slotted to be the first base coach but the opportunity to coach third base came up about a month prior to the World Cup qualifier.

It was likely the best thing that happened to me. I had to think about the game differently. I had to make decisions quickly. Most importantly I was trusted to make those decisions, by both the players, most of whom were my former teammates, and by the other coaches.

I prepared as best I could and then I put my whole heart and all my effort into making sure we were ready as a team. That has never changed, and I feel like the players know I love our program and will do whatever it takes to give us a chance to be successful. Because of that, I believe I have earned their respect as a player and now as a coach.

What does coaching a team full of talented women mean to you and how do you plan to continue to use your influence to empower other women and girls to join baseball?

One reason I love being a teacher is that I truly believe we get to be mentors and positively influence young minds. I take no greater pride than providing young people with the tools to be successful and chase their dreams.

There is a special place in my heart though, for creating environments in a sport where young girls and women feel safe, comfortable, and have a chance to build their confidence and feel empowered.

I take that same approach when I coach our national team. Those women make significant sacrifices to be part of our program and they are going to lead the next generation of young people.

Myself, I try to lead by example.  I show youngsters if they work hard, dedicate to themselves being the best they can be, they can achieve their goals. 

What are your hopes for women’s baseball 5 years from now in regards to gender equality? Tell us what you personally feel needs to happen to close that gap.

My dream is for there to be a women’s pro league one day.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that will happen within the next 5 years but female ballplayers deserve it. There are enough talented players to have a competitive league but so many things have to happen before then. There needs to be an acknowledgement that the game exists and that there is talent! Just like so many other women’s sports, we would need proper investment, sponsorship, marketing, and promotion.

Gender equality in sports doesn’t exist.  Women’s tennis pays the same prize money as men but in no other sport is it equal.

Popular on social media right now are stories about men’s national team players not taking their money but instead are giving it to the women’s team. I think that is great, but it shouldn’t come to this. And the only reason they can do this is that they are professional athletes and are paid a very nice salary, unlike their female counterparts.

I think the men’s professional leagues could easily help fund female leagues but that would mean they would have to invest in us, and they aren’t interested in doing that.

What do you think are some key characteristics that make a great leader? How do you bring these into your coaching philosophy?

I think great leaders care about the “greater good” more than anything else. They will sacrifice themselves to make sure their team/people have more opportunities. They are passionate, hardworking, and can build relationships with others to make members of their team feel important and understand their worth.

I do my very best to connect with our athletes. I think they know how much I care about them and our program because of the time and work I invest in them. Getting to know your players is so important. What’s important to them. What makes them ‘tick’. Investing time in them affords you the opportunity to be honest with them about their game because they know and trust you want what is best for them and the team.

Emma Greer Emma's Final Thoughts

Ashley Stephenson has a busy life but has a common goal in everything she does. She empowers youth in her teaching role and supports her players on and off the field. She knows exactly what it takes to be a true leader. Her push for gender equality in sport is inspiring and personally gives me hope as a former athlete and current woman in sport. She knows what needs to be done and is honest in her approach. Women aren’t supported enough and we need the recognition. The talent is there and with coaches like Ashley, the only way is up. 

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