You might call Brittany Timko Baxter the ultimate soccer mom.
While her two children, Zoe and Johnny, aren’t yet old enough to require her chauffeur services to get to practices and games, or her culinary skills to slice oranges for halftime snacks, she is a two-time hall of famer.
Recently, Timko Baxter joined the Coquitlam Sports Hall of Fame, just over a year after she was inducted into the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame.
They’re honours Timko Baxter hopes will serve as examples for her own kids, as well as the tens of thousands of girls and young women who already play the sport. They’re also accolades she never dreamed of when she was five years old, knocking the ball around on the grass behind Parkland elementary school, not far from her parents’ home.
That’s when Timko Baxter told her mom she wanted to become a professional soccer player. She said she had no idea how to achieve that goal, or what pro opportunities might be out there for women, but 30 years later she has attained her wish and more.
Timko Baxter graduated from a successful high school career at Centennial secondary to play 71 matches with the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers where she scored 41 goals. She was also on Canada’s national U19 team, earning the Golden Shoe award as the top scorer in the 2004 FIFA U19 world championship in Edmonton.
Timko Baxter played for Canada in two Olympics, winning a bronze medal in 2012 in London. She got gold at the 2011 Pan American Games soccer tournament and she played in two FIFA Women’s World Cups, in 2007 and 2011. All told, she played 132 matches for Canada’s senior women’s team and scored five goals.
Along the way, Timko Baxter also played professionally, with clubs in Australia, Sweden, Germany and, finally, the Seattle Sounders Women team of the W-League for a season until she retired in 2014.
Timko Baxter said the successes of players like Andrea Neil, Charmaine Hooper and Amy Walsh showed her there was a path forward in soccer for young women. Now, she added, that responsibility falls to her.
Timko Baxter said the sport has come a long way.
“But there’s still room to grow,” she added.
While international tournaments like the Olympics and World Cup have become showcases for women’s soccer that can sell out 60,000-seat stadiums and draw worldwide television audiences, Timko Baxter said professional opportunities for women players to actually earn a decent living are still few and far between.
Soccer’s gender gap is narrowing, though.
Timko Baxter pointed to the accolades for her former teammate, Burnaby’s Christine Sinclair, that recognized her achievement as soccer’s greatest scorer while barely mentioning her gender. She said more attention like that will open even greater opportunities for the next generation of girls and young women playing the sport.
“For most people, if they’re a fan of soccer they cheer whether it’s men or women,” Timko Baxter said, adding the higher profile and greater acceptance of elite women’s soccer has trickled down to the community level as well, with better coaching, more programs and greater opportunity to develop.
That bodes well for her daughter, and even her son, should they choose to play the sport, Timko Baxter said.
“What I want them to learn is the life skills they can take from any sport,” she said. “At the end, we’ll all stop playing, but it’s what you learn from the sport that you carry on with you for the rest of your life.”
• Others named to the hall of fame, after a year’s hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, include:
- Dave McKay, two-time Olympic wrestler;
- the 1987 Coquitlam Metro Ford United soccer team that won the national women’s championship in Oakville, Ont.;
- the late Sohen Gill, former lacrosse player, general manager and coach of the Senior A and Junior A Coquitlam Adanacs, as well as executive at the provincial and national levels.