SIX NATIONS – Carey-Leigh Thomas will be representing Canada, once again on the international sports stage this summer as a member of the Canadian National Softball Team which is getting ready for the Pan-Am Games in Toronto this summer, with the Mississaugas of the New Credit acting as the indigenous host nation.
At 22-years of age, the Cayuga, Bear Clan athlete, mother and wife, has been a top class player for many years already as she made her way through the minor leagues, drawing attention by the Canadian National Team coaches. In 2011, she was recruited for the Canadian National Jr. Team and earned a spot. With that team she traveled to South Africa to compete in the World Softball Championships.
The next year, she made the Sr. Nationals as the first Onkwehonwe woman to make the team. That year she traveled with the team to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory for the Worlds.
“I took a year off in 2013 to give birth and raise my daughter,” said Thomas. “Six weeks after giving birth to Lila, I was back in the gym working out and on the field getting ready. I told the coach not to worry, that I would be back to make the National Team and make him proud.”
This past summer, in 2014, Thomas proved true to her word and made the Sr. Women’s National Team again. But this time, she wasn’t only the first Aboriginal woman to make the team, but now the first woman to have a child and make the team.
Thomas believes academic goals are just as important as athletic goals, and she has conducted both her sports career and her life accordingly.
She is a recent graduate of McMaster University in 2014 with a degree in sociology, and is presently taking a teacher-education program at Brock University where she is in her final year.
“It’s an honour to be here and speaking with you because it is very important, as a community,” Thomas said at a recent community gathering to kick-off Six Nation’s involvement in the Pam-Am Games. “It is very important, as a community.”
Thomas is an outspoken ambassador for Onkwehonwe women in sports and takes her responsibilities as a role model to not only younger athletes, but all young women no matter what road they choose to travel.
She spoke of the peculiar difficulties Onkwehonwe athletes face and of her own struggles.
“I’ve battled several challenges,” she told the audience. “As Onkwehonwe People we face challenges every day, more than any others. You can’t let those challenges get the best of you or let them stop you in where you want to go in life. I am still a mother and a wife every day as well as an athlete. You just have to go about doing things in a different way when challenges come.”
“When going after what you want in life, you have to have that fire,” Thomas encourages. “My mom says that ever since I was in Grade 6, she saw that fire in me. After I had Lila she said she saw that fire light up again.”
Through sports, Thomas believes many lasting life lessons are learned which will stay with a person for the rest of their lives.