Black History Month: Shawnti Peters
February 13th, 2023
(WHITBY, ON) - In celebration of Black History Month, Rugby Ontario is spotlighting BIPOC members of the Ontario rugby community who are making a difference in the sport. Today’s profile is on Shawnti Peters. Shawnti played her club rugby with the Toronto Amazons and is currently a member of the Brock Badgers Women’s rugby team. Shawnti was also the inaugural recipient of the Toronto Inner-City Rugby Foundation (TIRF) Paul Myers Memorial Advancement Scholarship. The Paul Myers Memorial Advancement Scholarship supports student athletes who strive to make a positive and long-lasting impact. Read below to learn more about Shawnti’s story.
1. How did you first get involved with Rugby?
When I initially entered high school in grade 9 (Newtonbrook Seconday School) I picked up rugby. I've always wanted to take up rugby. It was my first time participating in a challenging, physical sport, and not understanding how to play rugby increased my fear that I would make a mistake. I felt both excitement and anxiety at the same time.
2. What is your favourite rugby memory?
My best rugby experiences are traveling with my team, participating in numerous games in one day, getting to know and form bonds with new teammates, and even taking on a leadership position that others look up to. My high school rugby team brought the flag and gold medals home on May 29, 2019. It was an incredibly gratifying experience to be a part of and share with friends and family.
3. What do you love most about the sport?
Rugby displays and provides numerous possibilities for you to meet people from all around the world, which is what I enjoy about it. You get to bond with people, travel, and most importantly, engage in a sport I love.
4. What are your goals as you move forward in your rugby career?
My goal for Rugby in the future is to be a strong forwards player and possibly travel around the world to compete and play the sport I love.
5. What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black History Month stands about supporting one another, Black Lives Matter, and mental health. Given how many racist acts I have seen throughout the years of my life, Black History Month is incredibly significant to me. Black History Month celebrates those who made sacrifices so that we might live in the freedom we enjoy today. Black is Beautiful.
6. What effect has being a person of colour had on your experience in rugby?
People assume that since I am a black young woman playing rugby, I don't know how to play or that I might not be good enough for the team. I need to prove myself on the field and off it if I want to overcome these criticisms. I have to work harder than the other players on the team because while some may naturally be recruited, persons of colour must battle, demonstrate, respect, and perform in order to be taken seriously in rugby. People assume I'm benched because I'm not capable of playing but really I'm injured.
7. Why might Black History Month hold special importance/meaning in the rugby community?
In the rugby community, Black History Month has a unique significance due to the large number of black men and women who have participated in the sport throughout the years, which is now well-known worldwide. Being the first black young woman to receive the inaugural Paul Myers Memorial Advancement Scholarship was a unique opportunity because Paul was a special person in the rugby community. Many athletes looked up to him and in fact, he was in the police force and also playing rugby, which is something that I'm studying to do in order to become a police officer while also continuing to play rugby while in university.
8. What can Rugby Ontario do to make our sport more diverse and inclusive?
By educating all coaches and employees on the value of diversity and inclusion, Rugby Ontario can promote this. Have young Black rugby players discuss their feelings towards the sport both on and off the field. Another thing is for black players to feel and know that their teams appreciate them for who they are by participating in activities for Black History Month with all rugby teams and clubs. Increase the number of females and coaches of colour. Creating an emotionally safe space for athletes to express themselves both on and off the field is the final step (mental health).
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Rugby Ontario is the provincial sports governing body responsible for the organization of rugby in Ontario. Our mission is to lead, support and promote Rugby for All from communities to clubs to province. This mission signals a movement toward creating a more cohesive, supportive and progressive sporting environment that is responsive to the needs of all members.
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