Economics is everywhere, Joan McEachern often tells her students. So is soccer.
At least for the longtime Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) instructor, who believes sport offers lessons even to business students.
“Being involved in soccer has taught me so many life lessons and prepared me for my journey. Starting with being disciplined, working hard, teamwork, perseverance, and dedication,” she says. “To be successful, you learn very quickly that failure is not an endpoint, but a learning experience. Soccer changed my life, and I am so grateful for the opportunities that I had.”
McEachern is an economics instructor in KPU’s Melville School of Business whose passion for “the Beautiful Game” has landed her a place in the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame, adding to accolades that include membership in the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame and the Soccer Hall of Fame of British Columbia.
McEachern, now in her 28th year of teaching at KPU, was inducted in the Athletes category in a class that includes multisport athlete Jaime Boyer and hockey legends Ryan Getzlaf and Hayley Wickenheiser. Three more inductees in the Builder category round out the class of 2023: Lorne Lasuita, Bernadette McIntyre, and Noreen Murphy.
“There is one plaque that will hang in the hall of fame that has our entire class, as opposed to a plaque for each individual. It nicely sums up that sport is a team game,” says McEachern, who attended the Sept. 23 awards ceremony in Regina, Sask., not far from her hometown of Lanigan.
Joining KPU in 1996, McEachern teaches microeconomics, macroeconomics, securities analysis, and for many years, soccer. She served as assistant coach for the Kwantlen Eagles women’s soccer team from its inception in 2003 until the program ended in 2015.
Before teaching, McEachern enjoyed a long career in sport. From 1987 to 1995 she played as a midfielder for the Canada Soccer's Women's National Team, and was part of the 1995 women’s squad that competed for Canada in the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) Women’s World Cup for the first time.
Another memorable moment came in 1988 when FIFA staged a 12-team test event in China to gauge the interest and quality of women’s soccer. After playing in front of modest crowds, Canada squared off with China in front of 63,000 fans. McEachern scored her first international goal in the tournament, but her country would go on to lose 1-0 to Sweden in the quarter-final.
“Players were not only representing their countries, but we were also representing women’s football and fighting for the opportunity to compete in a World Cup. For me, that tournament was a pivotal moment in the history of the women’s game. As a result of that tournament, FIFA did hold a World Cup in November 1991.”
Soccer today has hit a new level of interest for Canadians, adds McEachern, noting the recent Olympic and World Cup success of both the women’s and men’s teams.
“It might not rival hockey, but I think the profile has been raised dramatically over the last number of years. The level of technical and tactical ability in the women’s game today is truly phenomenal, but many people do not realize we’ve been at this for a long time. The first Canadian women’s national team took to the pitch in 1986. We have evolved, but it has taken time and hard work from every player that has represented this country in women’s soccer.”