On a crisp October afternoon, almost two years after playing their final season as Ravens Jennie and Jolene Wong were honoured at the team's 2021 Senior Day. In front of the Ravens' Perch press box, a group of young soccer players roared as the sisters were introduced providing the day's most boisterous reaction. It was a final opportunity for Jennie and Jolene to savour a moment on the Perch after pouring years into the Carleton community.
Reflecting on the unique end to their varsity careers, Jennie admits the senior day experience brought them closure. "Because we didn't actually know when our last practice was going to be we actually ended up saying goodbye to a lot of our teammates over a team meeting Zoom call."
Being invited back for Senior Day in the fall became a special moment for the sisters. "That they were willing to include us in the current seniors day, it was really nice to be included in all of their celebrations," admitted Jennie. "Other than the fact that we didn't get to play in that senior day game we got to be part of all the celebrations."
Having both moved on to new opportunities during the pandemic to don the Ravens jersey one last time was an opportunity that the sisters relished. "Normally you have either your team making playoffs or you have your senior day," explained Jolene. "But for us, it was a year later and we ended our career ins 2020 playing in off-season games."
Throughout their time at Carleton the sisters were known for their role in the community helping build connections through Junior Ravens, community coaching and varsity council, their impact was felt far beyond the field. For the sisters, being involved in their communities was a continuation of what they had done at Ottawa's Woodroofe High School.
"In high school, we were both in our athletic association and that was something we really enjoyed being a part of," explained Jolene. "When we first got started we were some of the youngest ones on varsity council. The first year we just kind of felt out how the varsity council ran, and in our third year we got more involved as we understood how things worked in Athletics and how the council could develop more to integrate with more athletes and get things done that they wanted to." The sisters quickly got involved in helping the Varsity Council to be more connected to initiatives like Bell Let's Talk, annual pink games and other opportunities.
"There are so many great opportunities right now for student-athletes to reach out and get involved," continues Jennie. "There are so many opportunities in such different areas where we can all help engage the Ottawa and Carleton communities."
Born and raised in Ottawa, the sisters are both pursuing post-graduate opportunities in the sports industry while continuing to give back to youth soccer in the city. Neither of them shies away from admitting they felt they have a role to play in growing women's sports. "As a varsity athlete, we naturally have a platform," said Jennie. "Being from Ottawa, having played at our hometown university, a lot of people recognize us - not just because we're twins - a lot of the varsity athletes are role models to so many athletes around Ottawa because that's the highest level you can see. There's not really anything higher than the university programs here."
For Jolene, coaching provides the sisters with a new outlet to continue being role models for girls and young women in the community. "Growing up we didn't have any female coaches at all," she explained. "We saw some here and there, so when we got into coaching we enjoyed being able to help young athletes find their passion for the sport or just enjoying being out in the sun with a ball at their feet."
Today, the young coaches are using their connections to introduce their players to the OUA, bringing them to Ravens games and helping them to understand the opportunities that lie ahead.
"To give back is something that we've both really enjoyed, and to do it through soccer is something even more special." - Jolene Wong
Today, the sisters are both working hard in post-graduate programs, Jennie working towards her Master's while Jolene studies sports business management. Working through internships and coursework, the two sisters are quickly learning about life on the other side of the pitch and looking to gain momentum as they build careers in the industry and grow the game in the community.
As they begin to grow their footprint Jolene acknowledges that giving back has been ingrained in them. "We never expected to be role models," she admits. "Our parents always raised us with the sense that if you can give back to the community you should definitely try." Together the two sisters hope that by giving back they're only going to further help women grab a foothold in the sports landscape.
"To see females thriving in an area, especially sport, is something a lot of people don't see. A lot of clubs in the area have wanted to push female empowerment so being able to coach young females is something that will empower youth to continue to dream. If we can impact any who dreams to continue the sport and fall in love with it that's incredible."
While the sisters recognize the excellent leadership of Carleton soccer from coaches Dom Oliveri and Kwesi Loney, they point to the involvement of strong female role models who have played the role of assistant coach as someone they looked up to. Thinking back about the lessons they learned from Jasmine Phillips and Gina Pacheco, Jennie notes they were some of the first female coaches they had in their lives. "We didn't see many female coaches growing up either, so to look up to them as coaches and as players and have that full-circle moment is really cool."
As the two Ravens embark on their professional careers they are proud to be part of a caring community that is making room for women to enter the industry.
"There are so many options, and I'd love to stay in sports, but at this time it's also exploring what other opportunities are out there," concluded Jolene. "Like Jennie said, we both are so passionate about soccer and I love coaching young girls so continuing in the sport as long as we can is something we'd both love to do."