Despite various setbacks, DiNunzio’s story is one of inspiration. Combining brains, beauty, brawn and the power of positive thinking, she has transformed mind, body and spirit into a remarkable pillar of strength.
Her education, charitable work and athletic drive extol the qualities of a remarkable person. In many ways, various aspects of her life resemble that of a football game. Sometimes, one gets knocked down, while other times, something will go one’s way and result in a break. The end result is to get back up and keep trying. The journey to try and get to the end zone is where the lessons are learned.
“I could go on and on about the things I’ve done or the places I’ve been; but in the end it all comes down to being a good person; helping someone else to be better tomorrow than they are today. We’ve all had our lows in life. When I was 19 years old, I was homeless as a result of an incredibly abusive relationship; I was at the bottom of my game.”
“I’m a naturally resilient person, and doing it my way, I found the support I needed and made the decision to build myself back up and live as an example. The most rewarding thing about helping someone else is simply being a part of the solution. I know I can’t save the world, but I can do my part to positively impact my community and inspire others to do the same.”
When not competing on the gridiron as a linebacker for the Rage, DiNunzio’s other athletic endeavor involves bodybuilding. In her first season of competition, she participated in two events as part of the Best Body Tall category; the INBF Stampede Classic out of Calgary (ninth place) and at the INBF Vancouver Cup (third place). In addition to competing for the International Bodybuilding Federation of Canada, she also works for the federation as an Organizational Director.
The commitment to bodybuilding and fitness competitions led to a great transition in terms of physical preparation to play football. As a competitive bodybuilder, her experience in football is similar to male bodybuilder Mike Katz, who once played for the New York Jets.
“The amount of time I spent in the gym was CRAZY! I had lost 110 pounds by the time I was on stage when I won third place in the Vancouver Cup in September 2011. I started my journey to just be healthier and be a better example for my little girl. Yet, I needed something to keep me going back to the woman I didn’t want to be anymore.”
“As a result, I registered with the INBF. It was an awesome move. They are a great and supportive organization. I had a great time and learned a LOT about myself, my body and what I’m really capable of. It transferred over well onto the field because I’m still in close to peak condition; that’s what it’s about when you’re a linebacker!”
Her interest in the game of football started at a young age. Growing up, the opportunity to observe the gridiron glories on television brought with it an opportunity to bond with her father. While she did not play team sports in her childhood, the Sunday afternoon ritual was one that provided great memories.
“I have always been a football fan. I was raised by a single father who was a jail guard in the Yukon. We spent a lot of Sunday afternoons and Monday nights watching football together. By watching football together, I clearly meant I had no idea what I was watching, and simply enjoyed the time with my dad.”
“I was approached by the Calgary Rage during one of my competitive seasons and chose not to play in an effort to maintain balance to my goals of competing with the International Natural Bodybuilding Federation (INBF) Canada. Once I was done my competitive season, I decided to give it a whirl.”
Having studied at Mount Royal University in Alberta, her accomplishments in the classroom are equally impressive. A trained negotiator and facilitator, DiNunzio also holds certifications in project management and conflict management, respectively. “I’ve been doing change management in a professional capacity for around 7 years and run my own consulting firm, The Art of Progress.”
With her strong educational background, it has led itself to consultant work in organizational change management along with personal consultancy (and her own website). As her personal consultancy results in striving for clients to achieve goals by bringing about personal change, her strategic thinking and mentorship transfer very well to the football field.
“There is a lot I love about football, but I think the part I like the most would have to be the thought process. I’m a very strategic thinker, so breaking things down into bite size pieces, everyone doing something different with the same goal, is fascinating to me. I really enjoy that team feeling and atmosphere that comes along with that—and in the end, the real taste of success.”
“When I say success, it doesn’t necessarily mean winning, but it means holding, contain during a whole game, or damaging a play enough to hold someone at the line of scrimmage or help them lose a few yards. That’s pretty satisfying.”
As the Calgary Rage head into the 2013 season, DiNunzio feels that the team culture is only getting stronger. In 2012, the Rage finished with a losing record but managed to qualify for the postseason. Despite a 34-13 loss to the Edmonton Storm in the Western Conference semi-final, DiNunzio sees a bright future ahead. With the club looking to claim its first WWCFL championship, she understands that core values such as teamwork shall compose part of the foundation towards building a winner.
“A strong sense of confidence (not entitlement), teamwork, commitment and change agility. We’re off to a fantastic start—the changes that I’ve noted this season so far as tremendous. Our Executive has done a fantastic job of player engagement during the off-season and pre-season which has lent itself to a strong team camaraderie.”
Through her upbringing, DiNunzio also understood the need to help the less fortunate. It is something that she has also passed on to her young daughter of eight years old. Currently serving on the Board of Directors with Youth Central, her ability to reach out to the community is an extension of her strong leadership and drive.
“I’ve always been a community advocate; my dad used to pack us into his camper and drop groups of us off at the senior’s lodge in Whitehorse. By the time I was 15, my sister and I were invited to attend the Lion’s Club Camp for Deserving Youth. I’ve gone on to coach little guys in T-Ball, spent a lot of time with the Salvation Army’s Children’s Village, ran a large corporate charitable fund, and used to spend my Sundays baking cookies for an outreach van with my little girl.”
Of note, DiNunzio has employed her charitable side to give back to women’s tackle football. As Alberta has its own provincial women’s football team, DiNunzio was involved with sponsorship. Her work is not only helping to build the sport among women, but her support brings with it a truly major league feel.
“My firm sponsored Team Alberta 2012 in various ways; in order to ensure we had a trainer, a med kid and additional coaching support. While I’d like to think I’m able to influence change and facilitate conflict management, I’m no angel. Because I’ve never played an organized sport before, it’s taken me some time to understand humility in the athletic world.”
One of the key themes in her life (and one she seeks to remind in others) is to live with purpose. Her life is a template for great personal success. Her work with women’s sports not only makes her a role model, but provides young women with a strong influence to seek inspiration from.
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”