INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY: Nara Riplinger sees education and sport as paths forward

Nara Riplinger (second from right) with her husband Randy, their daughter Madigan and their son Daelin.  (Photo submitted).Nara Riplinger (second from right) with her husband Randy, their daughter Madigan and their son Daelin. (Photo submitted).
Nara Riplinger (far right) with her soccer team at the 2019 BC Soccer Provincial Championships. (Photo submitted)Nara Riplinger (far right) with her soccer team at the 2019 BC Soccer Provincial Championships. (Photo submitted)
Nara Riplinger enjoys the sunset with her dog.  (photo submitted)Nara Riplinger enjoys the sunset with her dog. (photo submitted)

Nara Riplinger is a mother, teacher, and avid soccer volunteer for the Williams Lake Youth Soccer Association. She believes that “education and sport are the ways forward for any community.”

She was born in Ghana and raised in Williams Lake before completing her BSc in Biology from UBC and her Teaching Certificate from UVic.

She taught in Vancouver and Australia before returning to Williams Lake in search of a simpler and more affordable lifestyle. She also missed her family and what she called Sunday lunch.

“Sunday lunch allowed us all to find time to gather together during the week.

Summer dinners were long and leisurely with garden games and barbecues. Winter dinners were sometimes more hectic depending on who had hockey. We’ve been talking about our week and our upcoming events, and just spending time reconnecting with each other,” Riplinger said.

Riplinger’s parents, Bruce and Lil Mack, have always championed her and exposed her to education, sports and travel. They also raised them to be aware of their privilege. As she grew up, her father worked with the Cariboo Tribal Council (now the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council), teaching his family and others about the boarding school system. Sadly he passed away in 2019, but his commitment to his community lives on through his daughter.

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“You realize that not everyone has had the same upbringing as you and not everyone has the support that you had. It has helped me develop more empathy, especially when working with children,” said Riplinger.

Now she works as a teacher at Columneetza, a career she loves. “Teaching was a natural fit for me as I love working with children and I love to learn… I enjoy the challenge.”

She does her best to highlight the inequalities in education (gender and race issues, to name a few), the importance of being an ally, and championing voices that don’t get as much recognition.

“I realize that my role as an educator and active member of the community is to notice who is not being included, reflect on why they are not being included, and find ways to break, support, or remove barriers . This can be in sports, in leadership positions, as a coach or in the classroom. I also use the generosity of community members to share their knowledge so I can become a better educator as we discuss other types of knowledge in the classroom,” said Riplinger.

Her work is balanced with her own family. She and her husband Randy – married for almost 20 years – have known each other for over 35 years.

Randy grew up with Riplinger’s brother-in-law, coached Riplinger in soccer when they were younger, and both were part of her sister’s wedding party. They have two children together, their daughter Madigan, who is a freshman in science at UBC, and their son Daelin, who is in 11th grade.

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Riplinger also volunteers time with the Williams Lake Youth Soccer Association.

She grew up around football and eventually coached, including her children and Grant Gustafson’s reps, who she said kept her busy.

She also helps with Future Stars, a program that promotes equality on the field by grouping players of similar ability and matching new coaches with more experienced coaches. SoccerFest, where she helped set up a free camp; and ViaSport.

“When I was recruiting volunteer trainers for WLYSA, mothers often said, ‘I can’t do it. I don’t have a babysitter” or “My partner works in shifts”. They still had to be parents and trying to coach. With the help of ViaSport, we were able to host women-only coaching classes where we offered free babysitting and lunch,” said Riplinger.

She believes sport and education should be inclusive and accessible, including free youth sports that the community can enjoy by staying healthy and active.

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