In 2016, Becky Hanna went viral.
The Cape Breton University defender released a Facebook video during her third year with the team detailing her issues with bulimia and it quickly gained Internet traction.
" I never expected my video to reach as many people as it did so I wasn't really prepared for the amount of feedback and support that I received," Hanna said. "I received messages from hundreds of people who had seen my story, many of whom had experienced mental illness themselves, or who had a family member or loved one suffering."
But after weeks of messages and interviews, Hanna was relieved when things finally quieted.
"Initially, it was pretty heavy—overwhelming to say the very least," Hanna said. "But eventually, once the dust settled, I was able to heal. I was able to have many open conversations about my mental health, which I wasn't able to do before, as I was hiding it from the world."
In the intervening years, Hanna has cemented herself in a crucial role for the Cape Breton University Capers soccer team.
Last season, Hanna started every game for the Capers and earned herself a spot as an AUS Second Team All-Star. She has continued her stellar play this season, starting 10 games and scoring a goal and an assist.
Hanna is one of three local players on the Capers squad this season and her journey to starting for CBU began with the Timbits program.
"I think I first started playing soccer because my older brother was playing and I wanted to emulate him" Hanna said. "I think at the time every kid around was playing Timbits soccer so I also wanted to play with my friends and just went from there"
She started to think she could take her game to the next level when she played Under 12 soccer and was asked to participate in the provincial program. As she progressed, she caught the eye of CBU women's soccer coach Ness Timmons.
"Ness started recruiting me at a young age," Hanna said. "I was probably in Grade 9 when I first started practicing with the team throughout the winter. He had his eye on me because he knew I'd been playing with the provincial program and getting some training. And he watched a lot of soccer locally so he knew what I was all about"
In high school, Hanna suffered an ACL injury that sidelined her for a long stretch but she was able to recover and still received a wealth of offers from other schools.
"[I thought about leaving Cape Breton] especially when playing with the provincial program when we played in showcase tournaments around the country and down in the United States," Hanna said. "During those times we had a lot of recruitment emails to play across the country. I had options to play in other places but I knew that I had a quality soccer program right here in my backyard and I don't think I was ready to leave home yet"
Since joining the Capers, Hanna has been a part of two AUS championship teams along with a trip the national final last year. Hanna says team chemistry has improved both on and off the field for the team over her five-year tenure with the Capers.
"I don't know if it's because I became more comfortable around the program and the team but over my five years I definitely find the closeness of the girls has increased dramatically," Hanna said. "Ness does a really good job at recruiting quality people and not just quality players"
Hanna credits the emphasis on leadership and mental training off the field with the increase in team chemistry.
"We had classroom sessions working on our mental toughness and coming together as a team," Hanna said. "We would sit down and talk about how we feel during certain moments like if we were down a goal or if we were lost and [it helped a lot us out]"
The Capers earned a bye for the upcoming AUS Championships in Sydney where they will look to defend their title. Hanna says nothing is guaranteed for the Capers.
"The success of a team up until this point doesn't really mean anything anymore because one loss will end your season," Hanna said. "So we are going to be prepared physically and mentally for every situation and every curveball that might be thrown at us in hopes that things will go our way."