Tamara Kulyk

Top 40 Under 40 2016

Photography Curtis Comeau

Age: 31

Job Title: Youth Director, Edmonton Clansmen Rugby Club Manager, Strategic Policy and Planning (continuing care), Government of Alberta Ministry of Health

Why She’s Top 40: She champions girls’ rugby in Edmonton.

Guilty Pleasure: “I love cheese and Harry Potter, and I like them together and separately. They’re both so good.”

Tamara Kulyk holds degrees from Carleton University and the London School of Economics, but, before that, she was placed in special ed. It wasn’t until high school that she learned she had severe dyslexia.

She muscled her way through with extra credit assignments and tutoring, but it was rugby that helped Kulyk manage her resulting anger: “Rugby was the only setting in which aggression was acceptable,” she says. “It was also the only place that helped me harness my frustration and turn it into a positive.”

She went on to study public administration and now works as a manager for the provincial government, but her love of the sport hasn’t waned. After high school, Kulyk played varsity rugby in Ottawa and London. In 2011, she arrived in Edmonton to take a job in health-policy research and began playing for the Edmonton Clansmen Rugby Club. A year later, she was sidelined by injuries: “It was a life changer for me,” she says.

To stay in the game, she began coaching youth and soon realized that girls needed a champion: Too often they were forced to practice in parking lots or play without referees because the boys’ teams were more likely to get field time or refs. To address entrenched sexism in rugby, Kulyk and a colleague successfully campaigned to have the Edmonton Rugby Union legitimize a girls’ league, replacing the haphazard stucture used previously.

Recently, she received funding from the union to start a marketing campaign to educate young women, and their parents, about the benefits of the challenging contact sport: “The change in girls from the beginning of the season to the end is amazing.”

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