Shape Your Life operates as a partnership between Dr. Cathy van Ingen (Brock University) and Joanne Green (Opportunity for Advancement). The program benefits from the hard work of our incredible Project Coordinator Tania Jivraj as well as our talented coaches, including Coach Inferno.
Dr. Cathy van Ingen (Co-founder)
Cathy is a co-founder of Shape Your Life and is an Associate Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Brock University. Cathy’s research on boxing includes historical work on the earliest black female boxers (dating back to the 1870s), and other essays on men’s and women’s boxing. She had the opportunity to work with 6-time world champion professional boxer, Lisa “Bad News” Brown, including attending several of Brown’s world title fights in Trinidad, South Korea, Panama, the U.S. and Canada. Cathy’s research with the Shape Your Life project focuses on how to design, implement and evaluate a trauma-informed boxing program. She also works with participants who want to talk about their experiences in SYL and what it is like to start boxing in this program.
Her academic articles “Getting lost as a way of knowing: the art of boxing within Shape Your Life” (Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 2016) and “Shape Your Life and Embrace Your Aggression: A Boxing Project for Female and Trans Survivors of Violence” (Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal, 2011) profile the impact of Shape Your Life on those living with the effects of violence in various ways.
Joanne Green (Co-founder)
Joanne is a co-founder of Shape Your Life. Joanne is the Executive Director of Opportunity for Advancement, an organization working with women who face exclusion from their communities. Joanne is a musician and filmmaker whose work focuses on the stories people have told about their lives, their struggles, their hopes and dreams. Joanne has a long history in the not-for- profit sector both as a community worker and advocate for those whose voices and stories are not given importance or power. Outside the Ring, a film about the Shape Your Life project, is her third documentary.
Tania Jivraj (Project Coordinator)
Tania was a participant in the Shape Your Life program 10 years ago. After Shape Your Life, she went back to school and completed a Bachelor of Social Work and a Masters in Social Work. As a social worker, she has worked in Critical Disability Research, in communities supporting parents labelled with intellectual disabilities, in the VAW sector as well as in the criminal justice system working with people on long-term supervision orders.
Head Coach Melinda ‘Whip’ Watpool
Melinda ‘Whip’ Watpool started boxing in August 2007, fell in love with the sport and has been going strong ever since. She is a 4x Elite National Boxing Champion in the 81kg Heavyweight division. Melinda says no sport gives her as much satisfaction and fulfillment as boxing does. Melinda trains under the watchful eye of one of Canada’s best and most accomplished coaches, Dewith Frazer at Dewith’s Boxing Studio in Mississauga. She has been trained by the best and is eager to bring her knowledge and love for the sport to Shape Your Life.
Melinda is a Level 2 coach who has lots of experience coaching, including running a youth boxing class every weekend. SYL is thrilled to have Melinda lead the SYL program. Melinda is very excited to have an opportunity to coach in SYL and is looking forward to working with participants.
Coach Inferno (Jazz)
Jazz, who goes by Coach “Inferno”, is ecstatic to be part of the Shape Your Life team and can’t wait to see what heights the program will go to next. Jazz has a Martial Arts background and fell hard for boxing back in 2015. Boxing made such an impact on Jazz’s life that she changed careers to become a Coach. After getting certified she started coaching in 2016, and says there is no looking back. A few years ago, this was only a dream.
Assistant Coach, Sonnja Parris
Sonnja “Fearless” Parris first joined Shape Your Life as a participant in 2008. She then became a SYL co-facilitator for 3 years. Sonnja also competed as a featherweight boxer between 2009-2013. Sonnja strives to be fearless in her daily life. She wants to create a welcoming and safe environment for women to explore the benefits of boxing. She brings a strong passion for the sport and first hand knowledge that boxing can be used as a vehicle for healing. Sonnja is currently training with Rey Morales out of Cabbagetown Boxing Club. Sonnja has completed the Apprentice Coach Module and is working on becoming a NCCP Certified Apprentice Coach.
Yoga Instructor: Olivia Aiello
Olivia is a social worker. For over ten years, she has worked with individuals who have been in conflict with the law. She is currently a doctoral student at the University of Toronto-OISE in the Social Justice Education program. Her research focuses on creating “healing spaces” for youth who have been in conflict with the law, spirituality in social work, and connecting to the body in mainstream community practice. Olivia has taught Vinyasa, pre and post-natal, and restorative yoga for the past five years at studios throughout the GTA, as well as in youth custody facilities, shelters, treatment centres, schools and community centres. Olivia completed specialized training with DONA International in California, and received her Doula certification.
In her spare time, Olivia loves to stay active with yoga, hiking, swimming, and enjoys nothing more than a great cup of Earl grey tea.