British Columbia-native, Christine Sinclair, got her start on a soccer team at four years old. From the time she could walk, she could practically kick a ball. Professional soccer was a common passion amongst the Sinclair family. Her father Bill Sinclair and uncles Brian and Bruce Gant were all Canadian amateur soccer champions while Brian and Bruce also played at the professional level. But while the sport seemed to run through her blood, she wasn’t always certain about being able to fill those shoes, at least not off the hop.
So, she hedged her bets, joining basketball and baseball teams while balancing the family sport. But soon, she embraced the sport and, at age 11, immersed herself fully into developing her identity as a soccer player. She quickly stood out amongst the pack, drawing attention from scouts through her teenage years. As a team leader and valuable player, Sinclair continued with varsity soccer at the University of Portland. Upon graduating, she returned to Canada to represent the Vancouver Whitecaps FC before eventually being selected eighth overall in the 2008 WPS International Draft for the inaugural season of top-tier American league Women’s Professional Soccer. In her first season with the team, Sinclair led the club in goals. In her second season, she dragged them from the bottom of the standings to a championship.
But despite her professional accolades, Sinclair’s true service to the sport came on the international stage. There, she quickly became one of the top international scorers among both men and women while representing Canada. Through her half a dozen FIFA World Cup games, Sinclair helped build the foundation for the next generation of Canadian women in sports, embodying excellence both on and off the field.
Years later, with championship titles and an Olympic gold medal victory under her belt, Sinclair remains as humble as she was when she first rolled up to the University of Portland campus.
While the soccer star is offered many moments to shine, she doesn’t always take them. Rather, she is pushed into them. Sinclair, who is soft-spoken, said once that she prefers “staying out of the spotlight“, even on the field. Though she might know she’s one of the most decorated athletes and potentially Canada’s greatest-ever soccer star, she’s allowed her game to do the talking. And with 16 years of professional experience, her game has gotten used to the limelight, even if the athlete herself prefers to avoid it.
The reason why Sinclair is such a powerhouse and still resonating with women athletes today isn’t because she prides herself on being the loudest in the room. Instead, she lets her resume speak for itself. With an incredible 14 Canadian Player of the Year awards and, most recently, the honour of being awarded The Best FIFA Special Award for Outstanding Career Achievement, Sinclair has drawn a blueprint that even Canada’s most ambitious athletes can aspire to.
Growing up in the 1980s, there weren’t many prominent female role models in Canadian sports. Sinclair had to make a presence for herself and for the sport itself. Since then, a lot has changed. She’s become a role model for young athletes, sitting in front of the television screen or playing on the field. And despite her penchant for staying out of the spotlight, Sinclair has embraced her role as an ambassador to the game for over a decade. When you’re as good as Sinclair, there’s no way around that.
As for how long that role will last is up to her. Just last month, she signed a contract extension with the Portland Thorns through 2022. But even as she eyes down the final stretch of her career, Sinclair’s legacy in Canadian sports and her influence on young women around the globe remains timeless.