Women's History Month: Alison's support system
The Canadian shares the importance of rooting yourself in a community to succeed in women's pro sports
Alison Jackson is no rookie in the world of bike racing but she recognizes that there is always something new to learn and someone new to learn from.
After eight seasons in the pro peloton, she is both an experienced teammate and a mentor. She values the companionship our team brings her and believes that having a supportive environment builds a strong foundation to thrive in women's pro sports. Alison has always been competitive and never turns down an opportunity to try something new. Her competitive nature pushes her to keep reaching new goals. Alison's eager and tenacious spirit brings an infectious energy to the team.
Read on about Alison’s perspective on navigating pro sports and her advice to young female athletes.
You make an effort to appreciate the people in your life. Who is a woman you appreciate in your life currently?
On the team right now, I've really just been enjoying spending time with our soigneur, Meg. She's got so much energy and so much love for and passion for the sport. She's been in it for so long and still just loves what she does and it’s great whenever you get to hang out with someone that's really passionate about what they do. That's just an absolute joy. And every year, every race sometimes, we work with a different soigneur, so I'm just really enjoying having her around.
Also being teammates with a few other Canadians has also just been a great joy. The Canadians that are also on the team like Mags and Sara are younger than I am but it's really fun to get to be the person they look up to, to be the mentor in moments, but also just friends in other moments. I've just been really enjoying that sort of relationship, that sort of the friendship and mentorship in the bike race.
You've said that a motto you live by is "you have to be brave to be bad at something new." How has this shaped your career?
When I first heard this motto, I think I heard it from someone trying to encourage their kids to try new things, but I thought, you know when you're a kid, everyone is bad at something. I feel like when we're adults we kind of get into a groove of what we're good at. And we like that feeling. We like the feeling of being good at something a lot of times and we just stick to those things and so we don't try new things. Basically I just wanted to adopt that motto and sort of normalize it as an adult, it's okay to try new stuff or not be so concerned about how it looks.
You have to be brave, to be the one out, while you're learning something, and then give yourself time. The only way that you're going to get good at something is to go through that learning process. Maybe it's a bit embarrassing and you're the only one but it takes a little bravery.
What drove you to become a professional cyclist?
When I was younger, like eight years old, and I was in gymnastics, I remember watching the Olympics on TV, and then I wanted to be an Olympian. So I always had that dream. But I think also coming from a small town where becoming a professional athlete is really a rarity, or a lot of times it doesn't feel like that could be possible. Everyone in my hometown wants to make the National Hockey League and no one does. But for me, it was about saying yes to opportunities– getting a running scholarship to university was one of those things that bridged that gap to becoming a professional athlete. I've always been super competitive. I just want to do whatever I can do. I just want to be the best at it. The opportunities opened up more for cycling, but I think now what I love so much about cycling is the game and that you can go to an event year after year, but it's going to be different, because the players are different or the conditions are different or, or how you play the game. You can make the race really different and that's what keeps me super engaged in the professional part of the sport.
What is your advice to young female athletes?
I think it's really important to root yourself in a community and that's something that I've been really good at. Back in Canada, I have a great support group of different generations, so people that are older than me, mentors that are really invested in my life realm or in the sport realm. And then also peers or friends. I really believe that the more fun that you have, and when you love what you do, you're going to have better performances and you're also going to have a longer career.
So I would tell the younger athletes to really establish yourselves, even if you're overseas and it's hard and there is a language barrier. Really try to find the people that you're just going to feel very comfortable with and have a good life balance that can be a bit separate from the sport. The worst kind of feeling is when we just get really isolated, and especially, a lot of times for North Americans coming to Europe and language barriers. It's pretty tough and when you're having a tough season or you're injured, you have got to have these other parts of your life, other facets of it, that can stay positive and give you energy and and so that would be just wherever your new home life is going to be. And yeah, really try to find ways to have fun on and off the bike.