‘Unstoppable’ Rosie MacLennan empowers girls to pursue the activities they love: A Yahoo! Exclusive

TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA: April 9, 2013: Dove has launched a new campaign called Girls Unstoppable to encourage moms to talk to girls about body image issues. The campaign kicked off today with the unveiling of two 3D billboards in downtown Toronto. ( Photo by Phil Cheung )

According to new Dove research, participation in sports and activities can play a crucial role in young girls' development. This follows the 2010 findings that six in 10 girls have quit sports because of poor body image.

To help young girls feel more encouraged and empowered in the activities they love, Dove approached Canada's trampoline superstar, Rosie MacLennan, and asked her to share her story.

"I guess they thought that because I'd gotten to the peak of where I can get in my career, they wanted to hear my story: how I did it and why I did it," MacLennan says.

MacLennan, 24, Canada's only gold medalist at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, recently spoke to Yahoo! Canada News about the new Dove "Girls Unstoppable" campaign and the role moms, mentors and athletics can play in building young girls' self-esteem.

Y! Canada: What is your "unstoppable" story?

MacLennan: Generally speaking, at a young age, you start to get compared to other people. You start comparing yourself to other people, whether it's in school or in sports, whether it's skill, your body, lots of different areas. With those comparisons, a white noise can kind of interfere with what your real goals are and can sidetrack you from what you're trying to accomplish and make you question your ability, question your body image, question your confidence.

But for me, when my behaviour was changing and I was shying away from my goals and what I really loved to do, my mom would just have a conversation with me — ongoing, even to this day — about how I was feeling, really trying to probe to get to that underlying feeling and thinking process and adjusting it to facilitate me and kind of hone back into really looking at what my goals were.

Do you consider your mom your greatest mentor?

MacLennan: She'd has a huge role in all of my life, but she's definitely the one [I'd turn to] if I was ever having problems with body image. Like, for one, our gym suits don't leave much to the imagination. They're pretty tight and form-fitting. I guess when I got to an international stage, I realized, "Okay, the Russian athletes, the Chinese athletes, they're all a little smaller than me."

I talked to my mom about it. And it did make me a bit self-conscious for a while, but then she started changing my perspective and saying, "Yeah, well, maybe your legs are a bit bigger, but how do you think you jump so high? How do you think you're so powerful and strong?" Really reshaping what my thoughts were to really celebrate what was unique about me in comparison to other athletes and how it would help me.

Most girls experience this body-image issue. What advice would you give to moms and mentors of young girls who want to quit sports because of it?

MacLennan: For moms or mentors, if you see a change in the dynamic, or see a young girl kind of leaning back, shying away from something you know they really love to do, talk to them about, ask them about it. Those conversations are hard to have at the beginning, which is why I think it's so amazing that Dove has created these resources on their Facebook page to help start those conversations, to help parents and mentors know what to look for. And don't be afraid to really probe and try to find that underlying reason.

For girls, just be aware. If you find something you really love to do, focus on that. It's easy to get sidetracked by a ton of other things, whether it's social pressures to fit in or not having that confidence in yourself or that comfort in your body. But think about what your goal is and what you love to do and why you love to do it. That's really important because that can keep you on track.

There are so many people that shy away and they never give themselves the opportunity to live their dream or live their passion.

Would you say that athletics ultimately helped your self-esteem?

MacLennan: Absolutely. Trampoline, even from a young age, was the place where I found my comfort zone. I found my voice. It was the place where I could be myself. I found people who shared my passion.

You go through struggles, you face challenges, you face obstacles, but the process of getting through those struggles and obstacles is what makes you stronger and what makes you more capable, so the next time, whether it's in sport or outside of sport or in whatever activity you're passionate about, you know you're capable of facing that challenge as an opportunity to learn and to grow.

What's next for you?

MacLennan: Right now, I'm getting more involved with this Girls Unstoppable campaign, which is really exciting, and I'm doing my masters at school and I'm still training for the upcoming World Cup series and World Championships this fall.

Wow, multitasking.

MacLennan: Definitely. But it's a good way to be.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting