From Humble Beginnings
When I was growing up, the only recreational activity that existed in my tiny Central Saskatchewan village was our skating rink. Built for Canada’s Centennial in 1967, it was not much more than a rickety wood enclosure over some natural ice. My dad was responsible for the maintenance of the ice and when it finally got cold enough, my sister and I would be excited to hold the hose and help my dad with flooding the ice. My dad had to be careful with how he turned the water on so that he didn’t knock us over with the water pressure. The rink was our everything. We timed each other while we skated in loops. We played shinny and scored great goals like Wayne Gretzky. It was magic when we made up choreography like figure skaters.
My childhood memories are full of sport role models and their moments of triumph. Donovan Bailey setting the 100m world record at Atlanta 1996. Many hours watching Kurt Browning, Shae-Lynne Bourne and Victor Kraatz, Elvis Stojko, and Jamie Salé and David Pelletier compete on TV. Saskatchewan’s golden girls, the Sandra Schmirler rink, winning the first Olympic gold curling medal. Simon Whitfield winning the first Olympic gold in triathlon at Sydney 2000. Beckie Scott, Cindy Klassen, and so many more.
Sport as the Springboard
In high school, volleyball was the sport of our community, and it was also my lifeblood. Our community came together to watch and cheer, and events were put on because of the dedication of volunteers. It was a site for personal growth, for discipline, for injury, and for failure. It’s where I learned about teamwork, perseverance, goal-setting, visioning and success. I got to travel around the province, and it’s where I made friends and connections. I decided to pursue playing in college, and I was lucky enough to find a team for that first year. The year was riddled with setbacks, injury, personal loss and challenges, and what helped me through it was a caring and kind athletic director. He made an impression on me by setting aside whatever he was doing to simply listen and offer support. Because of his influence, I told myself I wanted to give back to sport. This led me to change my major to sport management, to become a coach, and later a referee.
In order to finish my sport management bachelor’s degree in university, I had to complete a four-month fieldwork placement. My uncle asked me what my options were. I said, ‘To find an organization that would perhaps hire me when I finished the internship, or to find an organization that could provide me with a once-in-a-lifetime experience’. He asked what the biggest experience could be? I replied, ‘The Olympics, I suppose’. This conversation set the wheels in motion and I decided to see if I could achieve it. I extended feelers to a few different options, and one responded back, ‘That sounds great. When can you come?’ I completed my fieldwork with Innsbruck 2012, the first winter Youth Olympics. It was an incredible 6 months of working overseas, being a tourist in my spare time, working with an international organization, and seeing a different level of sport. I made lifelong friends. It has been the springboard to other opportunities, all of which have been valuable to me.
The Catalyst for Change
Sport has been an incredible catalyst through every part of my life. I’ve seen the power of sport from the smallest places (such as, a village of 100 people in Central Saskatchewan) to the largest sport platforms (such as, in Sochi, Russia, for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics). Many grassroots sport volunteers are like my dad, a farmer by trade, donating their time and energy to make sport an option in their community. But sport has evolved. It is becoming increasingly important for those organizing sport to possess special knowledge and skillsets in order to make sport successful and sport organizations healthy. I am here with those skillsets to support sport to do what it does best- positively impact individuals, communities, and societies. I am here with my sport management company, Spark Solutions, to help sport organizations to offer safe, fun, and inclusive participation experiences for every individual who participates in your club- athletes, coaches, referees, and volunteers. And, I am ready to get to work. Join me and let’s #sparkplay.