“You need someone who can show you how to do things in the best way that works for you, whether that’s in sport or any area of your life.”
Jessie Buydens describes her late grandma and role model, Opal Watt, as a strong, fierce woman who did many things not typically meant for women, including playing baseball and serving in the Canadian Navy in World War II. Similarly, she calls her other role model and former colleague, Trish Monture, a strong female advocate, a trailblazer and someone who led by example.
“There are a lot of areas that are still male-oriented so to have positive female roles models that don’t let themselves be limited by societal constraints is important,” she said.
Anyone who looks at Buydens’ own accomplishments, both in and out of sport, could easily say those things about her.
While her early sport activities included figure skating and ball, in 1998, after watching her brother play rugby, Buydens decided to give it a try and joined the Wild Oats Women’s (WOW) program. She also played on the Saskatchewan senior women’s team for many years and volunteered as the coach for the WOW junior team, including, at one point, coaching future Canadian women’s national team member, Kayla Mack.
“I really like coaching high school girls’ rugby because they’re excited and passionate about the sport,” said Buydens. “Coaching itself gives you the opportunity to share something you enjoy with others and I like being able to share rugby.”
Buydens continued her foray into typically male-dominated sports when she tried out for and earned a spot on the first Canadian women’s tackle football team in 2010—this after having never played the sport before—and again in 2013, finishing second at the World Championships each time.
Both of her stints on the national team gave Buydens access to the Canadian Sport Centre Saskatchewan high performance athlete services, including free gym memberships, a nutritionist and physio services.
“The benefit of those services is having access to them in the first place…so having them available is great,” said Buydens.
After playing on the women’s national team in 2010, Buydens became a founding member of the Saskatoon Valkyries women’s tackle football team later that year, with the team officially starting in 2011. She played with the team from its first season until her retirement from the sport in 2013, and served as the team’s president from 2011 to 2014. During her time with the team, the Valkyries won the first four Western Women’s Canadian Football League championships.
“It’s turned into an amazing program,” she said proudly. “It’s given lots of girls the opportunity to play football that they didn’t have before.”
Following her retirement from football, Buydens chose to take up another new sport: powerlifting. Between 2013 and 2016, she competed for Team Saskatchewan at nationals where she finished in the top three, as well as for Team Canada where she place third overall in the North American Championships and second overall at the Commonwealth Games.
Outside of competing and coaching, Buydens devotes time volunteering as part of several different sport and non-sport organizations. She’s served as the president of the Wild Oats organization, president of the North Saskatchewan Rugby Union, on the Sask Sport Inc. Board of Directors, a leader with the Girl Guides, has worked with the Elizabeth Fry Society and several other community groups.
“I like giving back to the community,” she said. “When I was young, I was able to be a Girl Guide because someone volunteered their time to be a Girl Guide leader. I was able to participate in ball because someone volunteered their time to be a coach.”
Her work with the Elizabeth Fry Society earned her the 2019 Lady Justice Award, while her varied involvement in sport garnered her a nomination in the athletics category for the 2016 YWCA Saskatoon Women of Distinction Award.