Strength in subtlety.

By Sarah Fox

Growing up, Chelsea Luft didn’t dominate the playground. She also wasn’t the type to put her hand up first in class. All in all, she certainly never wanted to be the center of attention.

Chelsea was shy—a naturally quiet kid. But she had loud, while unspoken, goals; among them, a fervent ambition for athleticism.

Growing up, the Alberta-born youth worried her timid nature could have negative consequences. Like many introverts, she was anxious about the struggle to stand out. As Chelsea got older, though, she began to realize there was strength in subtlety.

By the time Chelsea reached her teen years, she was an avid fundraiser and volunteer dance mentor, not to mention, former captain of a ringette team in her hometown of Cochrane.

Confident, strong and ambitious, Chelsea had discovered she could use her soft voice to lead herself and others to success. Her chosen course? Sports.

“I started dancing when I was young, and that was one of the things that got me out of my shell and got me out there,” she recalls. When she started as ringette player, it pushed her even further out of her comfort zone, changing the way she saw herself within a group. She flourished within the team environment. “It pushed me so much,” she says. “I definitely think that has taught me to be more of a leader.”

Gradually, these learnings steered her into a captain position on her ringette team, which led to further insights. Above all, Chelsea’s time with the team left her with the knowledge that it doesn’t require an extrovert to lead a collective. “When people are quiet leaders, people will naturally follow them.” In Chelsea’s eyes, quiet leaders create opportunity for involvement, by providing comfortable environments where people of all personality types can thrive. As the teen will tell you, this is true for sports, as well as in school and within the community.

“Sports is something the community wants to get involved in.”

Even before high school, Chelsea was already utilizing the energy team activities foster, harnessing the passion and commitment of a group and funneling that into charity. Back in Grade 8, she headed a Jump Rope for Heart marathon at her school, which drew involvement from students of all ages. The success of the event proved to Chelsea that acts of compassion, like sports, bring people together.

“Sports is something the community wants to get involved in,” she says. And when it comes to getting the crowd out to charity events and collecting donations, the allure of sports is something strong to lean on. “I think a lot more kids will get involved if it’s something they care about, which is typically sports.”

Knowing this, Chelsea continues to help organize and participate in fundraisers for different causes she cares about—with sports in her back pocket.

Take the Cochrane Classic she participates in yearly—an annual hockey game that raises money for the Cochrane Activettes, a group of women who founded a nonprofit assisting people in the Cochrane community. Or, look into the fundraising initiatives Chelsea has helmed at her high school to raise money for development efforts overseas—inspired by a ME to WE trip to Kenya last summer. Just this past school year, she threw a dodgeball tournament with the proceeds going to the building of a school in Kenya. A true athlete, Chelsea is goal-oriented and hopes to have the school fully-funded by the time she graduates.

Looking back at her path from shy student to community leader, Chelsea pinpoints a single simple secret—applicable whether in the dance studio, on the ice or inside a school gymnasium. “[With] so many of the things I’ve worked through, we’ve had such a huge team,” she says. “Get a lot of people on your team.”

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