'I'm not scared of the extra work': Ricketts and his vow to affect his community

Seeing action with 10 clubs in a career that spans over a decade, Whitecaps FC forward Tosaint Ricketts has seen his fair share of the world. From playing in Finland and Romania to Turkey and Israel, Ricketts’ experience spans much farther than his native Canada’s borders and his impact is felt far beyond the pitch.

“It goes back to when I was younger,” Ricketts explained. “If the community didn’t help me, if teammates, parents and people in the soccer community didn’t help me get through the struggles I had as a kid, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today. For that reason, I put a lot of value into giving back to the community because no matter how big or how small it is, it may affect somebody in a big way.”

While on the pitch, Ricketts has been a valued contributor everywhere he has gone, including two game-winners on the 2020 season for the ‘Caps. Off the pitch though, the 33-year-old is just as productive as Ricketts prioritizes his free time on others rather than himself. 

Ricketts is heavily involved in the Vancouver community and is the club’s ambassador for the It Takes A Village fundraising artwork campaign, honoring frontline heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic and raising over $140K for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank. As part of the initiative, Ricketts was also able to gift art pieces to British Columbia’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC Nurses Union president Christine Sorensen, and staff at BC Children’s Hospital.

“During the shutdown as we were in our houses, the frontline workers were the ones out there,” Ricketts said. “They were the ones keeping things going, keeping the city going, making sure we had food and that everything was okay for us inside. A big appreciation for them, the doctors and the nurses out there on the front lines. I took every opportunity to show my appreciation for them, to give back and do my part.”

Aside from the pandemic and in light of the world’s focus on eliminating racism and inequality, Ricketts’ previous and ongoing efforts were illuminated as MLS made an effort throughout the 2020 season to promote social justice initiatives.

The league announced Tuesday that Black Players for Change, comprised of over 170 MLS players, coaches and staff aiming to bridge the racial inequality gap that exists in society, has been named the 2020 MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year — the first time a group has been presented with the honor rather than an individual player. It's no surprise that Ricketts is passionately involved with the group.

“With the social justice and Black Lives Matter movement, that’s me. I’m a black man,” Ricketts said. “Anything I can do to help bridge that gap and eliminate the inequalities and social injustices by bringing awareness to the community, people, soccer players, anyone, I’m all for it. Every time my name was called, every opportunity I got, I tried to step up and do what I could to help.”

“It means a lot,” Ricketts added regarding the league’s commitment to the BLM movement. “During a time when things look kind of bleak, the league backed up the whole cause. They backed up the movement, did their part, brought awareness, let initiatives happen, helped with initiatives, they backed the whole thing which is nice to see during that tough time. Having the league on our side and everyone as a whole coming together and showing that unity, showing what collectiveness can do, it was special.”

After being named the VWFC 2020 Humanitarian of the Year in November, Ricketts was able to reflect on his effort and what they meant to not only the community but also to himself.

“That was a big honour,” Ricketts said. “I’ve never gotten an award like that. I’m not even in it for the awards, it’s just who I am, I always want to give back and do my part; I’m not scared of the extra work. I’m always willing to learn, understand people and get connected with the community I’m in. Getting the award at the end was a small consolation but the response from the things I did throughout the year was the true pleasure. I was just happy to help in any way."

Ricketts is a soccer player by profession, but he’s also the embodiment of what it means to be a good neighbour. While recognizing and assisting our frontline workers, supporting a greater sense of diversity and inclusion within the community, and much more, Ricketts has a job to do on the pitch and he knows the impact he has on his community.

“It’s for the future,” Ricketts said of why he’s so passionate about the community. “Anything I do with kids I love. I never got to meet any professional soccer players as a kid so any chance to give back and give that little bit of inspiration, I’m all for it, I’m all in. Little things we do within the community, like helping out with the food bank, raising money for people in need during a very tough time, those things matter. If everyone does their little part here and there the collective outcome is much bigger, and a lot of people can be helped from small things.”

Looking ahead to next season, Ricketts is on track to fully recover from his late-November knee arthroscopy. As Ricketts works off the pitch to complete his MBA and establish more social justice initiatives to benefit Vancouver, the Edmonton-native is eager to get back to work for the ‘Caps.

“I want to come back, provide for the team and take another step forward,” Ricketts said. “I know we were just shy of the playoffs this year but next year we’re looking to build and grow upon that and hopefully make a playoff appearance.”

“There was a lot to learn throughout this year, I’m happy for the experiences and happy to grow," Ricketts concluded. “I’m excited to apply those things next year and I’ll be working through the holidays to come back stronger and fitter for next season.”