Ainsley McKonkey is a 19-year-old second-year student at the University of Winnipeg. She’s in the faculty of education, working towards her linguistics degree, ultimately on a mission to get her master’s in speech therapy.
Ainsley is on another mission as well. Two soccer seasons ago she was the starting goalkeeper for the University of Winnipeg Wesmen women’s Soccer Team. She suffered a separated shoulder early this past season when she came out to challenge for a ball, and has struggled at times on her road back to full health.
"Watching others play your position is tough. It’s sometimes very hard to watch when you want to play. I had to keep my confidence up," Ainsley says.
Ainsley’s soccer journey is an interesting one. As a young girl her sport background was mostly dance and swimming. Then, when she was playing recreation soccer in Grade 9, Victor (Chico) Andrade took notice of her skills, and the rest is history.
"He made me the keeper I am today," says Ainsley of Andrade.
I asked Ainsley the best lesson Chico ever taught her.
"Never get down on yourself, never give up," she says. "When you are down in a game, give 100% until your team responds."
Getting her shoulder back to 100% and increasing her overall strength is paramount to Ainsley these days. She trains at Elite Performance five days a week, two hours a day.
She is wildly dedicated in the gym and is bound and determined to be ready to challenge for her position when camp opens at the University of Winnipeg in the spring.
The focus and intensity is clear in Ainsley’s voice.
"Soccer is the one sport I am committed to playing," she says.
"I put all of my energy into soccer."
Former Winnipeg Blue Bombers kicker Troy Westwood is co-host of The Big Show, every weekday morning from 6 to 10 a.m. on TSN 1290 radio. He writes about Winnipeg’s unsung sports heroes every other week in the Canstar Community News weeklies.