By Vivian Collings
An ambitious new resident is eager to share her devoted passion for soccer with the community.
Fitness trainer Kathy Judson moved to the area with her husband and twin daughters last summer, but quickly discovered that the chance to play the game most important to her was missing.
“Soccer is not just exercise and sport, but rather, it is therapy, it is friendships, it is vitamin D, it is well-earned sweat, it is walking down memory lane, and it is setting an example for my girls,” Judson said.
When the opportunity was not there to play, she knew she had to create it.
With that, Haliburton Grassroots Athletics was born, featuring a women’s league and a youth league.
Since being introduced to soccer at the age of 22, Judson knew that it was an opportunity that needed to be shared with as many women as possible.
Playing soccer in Belle River outdoors that summer, she missed the sport so much when the season ended that she created a women’s indoor league of her own to continue playing in the winter. This would prove to be the first of many leagues spearheaded by Judson.
She soon moved to London, England, and, to her surprise, found herself on a semi-pro women’s team playing in the Women’s Football Association Cup at Wembley Stadium, the oldest single-elimination soccer tournament in the world.
“I searched everywhere for a rec league to play in, but, unlike Canada, rec soccer for women didn’t exist yet,” she said. “I was thrown into the hardest, most non-fun soccer of my life [while playing with the semi-pro team], but I sure did learn a lot,” Judson said.
Judson then moved to Paris, France, and again, found herself struggling to find a recreational women’s league to play in. This time, she took the liberty of creating her own, Women’s International Soccer Paris, which attracted players from all over the world.
With women from various backgrounds already registered, Haliburton Grassroots Athletics is proving to have a similar effect.
The Haliburton women’s league welcomes women of all skill levels, any age over 18, and begins at the end of June. The league will run on Sunday evenings at 5 p.m. and go until mid-September.
To Judson, women’s soccer is limitless in the benefits that it can offer its players.
“Women lend themselves in many directions in order to care for our families, jobs, and businesses, and making this time for ourselves doesn’t come naturally,” she said.
Carla Hill, a paramedic in the county, said that she recently joined the league to add some enjoyment to her life after living through a pandemic for two years.
“I decided now was the time to spice up my routine and do something for me. I’m 40, a mother of two, and am excited to be a part of the [league],” Hill said.
Haliburton Grassroots Athletics was made possible thanks to the help of the Municipality of Dysart et al and a sponsorship by Tim Hortons.
Timbits is sponsoring the youth league to provide equipment for its players aged nine and under, and the Haliburton Tim Hortons will cover equipment costs for youth not under the Timbits sponsorship.
“Many children would not have the opportunity to play sports without the involvement of Tims. Organized leagues promote healthy, happy children who will retain fond memories from their involvement in team sports.” Haliburton Tim Hortons’ owner, Nancy Bishop, said. “It’s wonderful to know that the Haliburton Highlands will have organized soccer for kids of all ages. Kids thrive on playing team sports and having all teams looking good in team jerseys and participating in something new for the area is thrilling.”
The youth league will play every Thursday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at either the Haliburton Highlands Outdoors Association’s fish hatchery or one of the school fields in Haliburton. The women’s league has not yet determined where they will play. Updates can be found on the Municipality of Dysart et al’s website.
Registration is $100 per player for the season, and registration for both the women’s league and the youth league is now live here: www.dysartetal.ca/en/news/soccer-registration.aspx.
As an added bonus, Judson is offering free summer access to her fitness platform, Sweatbank, to any woman who registers for Haliburton Grassroots Athletics soccer.
Judson would like the league to grow into a larger soccer organization in time with multiple teams, a game schedule, referees, spectators, and more sponsors.
“I would love to see this league as something that our local women look forward to every summer, running decades into the future so that my girls will have it to enjoy as well,” Judson said. “With any luck, we might be able to play on the same team one day.”