Why Fund sport.

Jim Cuddy, Simon Whitfield and Ed Robertson share a laugh with an emerging Cdn athlete at Future Olympians press conference

Jim Cuddy, Simon Whitfield and Ed Robertson share a laugh with an emerging Cdn athlete at Future Olympians Fund press conference

Yesterday, with Jim Cuddy, Ed Robertson and Simon Whitfield,  I was part of an announcement that will hopefully effect the health of the Canadian high performance sport system. But I’m hoping that it will effect more than that – way more.

The Canadian Olympic Foundation, in partnership with Gold Medal Plates has announced the creation of the Future Olympians Fund. The target is to raise $4million in 4 years and for that money to help young emerging athletes bridge the gap that exists just below the financially supported National Team level. This gap has been getting bigger and bigger as municipalities and provinces give less and less funding to sport and activity programs. In the increased absence of funding at this level – there are fewer and fewer canadians being taught sport at much more than rudimentary and recreational levels without a significant investment by their families. To often that becomes exclusionary.

I’ve explained the existing problem – somewhat colloquially  – like this… If Own the Podium is able to support teams/athletes who are Top 10 (in the World) to become Top 3 and to win… How are athletes expected to get to that Top 10 Level? The flow of developing high performance athletes filling the pipeline from playground to podium is critically low, and with a weak base the likelihood of sustained success at the top becomes less and less foreseeable .  This Future Olympians Fund is intended to support the Canadian Sport Institutes and change that.

“Why Sport? Shouldn’t I be giving to healthcare, education or community programs?”

But there is a bigger picture… I often get asked -“Why sport?” as in “Why should I financially support a bunch of athletes who are traveling the world and chasing their dreams? Shouldn’t I be giving to healthcare, education or community programs?”  At first I didn’t know how to respond, those are really important and essential things. As I matured and listened to people telling me what my influence, and the influence of my peers, has had on them – I came to a response that I am proud of.

People have told me (or my team mates) ;

  • ~Cheering for you was the first time we got to cheer for our new country. We just became canadian citizens that year.
  • ~I didn’t want to go to school/stay in school, but I kept going because I wanted stay with my team so I could be famous like you. (When you speak at a school, particularly if you’re in a TV ad – you are automatically famous!)
  • ~Being a competitive athlete has kept me from getting into (all kinds of) trouble. It saved me.
  • ~My mother had given up fighting (for her health) but when she saw you fight like that – she wanted to try harder too.
  • ~How do you learn to (row, bike, speed skate, do gymnastics, etc etc ) I want to learn!
  • ~Normally my kids just want to play video games all day. During the olympics – they’d watch the sports and then run outside pretending that they were doing those sports.
  • ~I stood on my sofa and yelled so loud at the TV! When you won – everyone in our house all sang O’Canada at the top of our lungs.
  • ~Thank you – I felt so proud to be Canadian

That is the influence that Canadian athletes have on Canadians. – That’s the REAL value of high performance sport.

So…  my answer to “Why Sport?”

  • ~Because sport makes us proud – What else has a nation rocking red and white with a glorious maple leaf at our heart?
  • ~Because sport, high performance Olympic sport, inspires Canadians; it teaches us that we can be as great as any other nation. It makes us proud. It encourages us to get up and try.
  • ~Because the people who do sport, high performance sport are the ones who will give back by volunteering, mentoring, teaching, coaching and officiating each next generation of Canadians
  • ~Supporting sport is supporting healthcare, education and community programs.

Supporting sport is supporting healthcare, education and community programs.

Speaking for my Olympic peers and all the athletes that I work with – who are preparing for ALL of the upcoming Olympic Games – thank you for your time, your efforts and … your money. Together we are building a better, healthier, prouder Canada.

Canadian Olympic Committee’s press release

Ed Roberston and Marnie McBean talk about the Future Olympians Fund on CBC Morning with Heather Hiscox

No stone unturned – Define how “involved” you want others to be

Last month my message to the athletes was about having fun. It always seems that people who are winning, particularly career champions who win a lot, walk around with a twinkle in their eye; like they know a secret. To me that always indicates that regardless of how incredibly hard they are working – they LOVE what they do and they’re having a lot of fun doing it.

This month’s message is back to business. Business for Olympic athletes is training for a really big sporting event – but like big projects in other careers (exams, job interviews, sales presentations, conferences (particularly in exotic destinations!), trade shows, car/home purchases, event planning etc etc..) we have friends and family around that get excited and want to be involved in our work. They want to support and share in your big opportunity but in order for their help to be effective, how “involved” they can be needs to be defined. A conversation needs to be had.

Sometimes an athlete really needs their parent to be a parent- not a coach, not someone to plot strategy, and not someone blowing smoke in your eyes with un-objective praise. Athletes often say that having their family at the Games is incredibly important to them, but they really need them to stay at some distance. For each athlete that distance will be different.

I can’t see how that is terribly different for how people need to interact with parents, partners, and/or team mates/ co-workers in other endeavours – at all performance levels. Generally, I believe we have no problem being specific with the people who are directly involved in a tasks about their role. We hesitate to have the same conversation with those who may be peripheral to the task but are involved in our life. It is naive to think that they have no effect on our performance. We throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater and can undo all our hard work when we fail to be specific with those people about how they can help; where they can be, what they should/shouldn’t do and even what they might/might not say to be supportive.

If you’re going to doggedly turn over all the stones that directly effect your ability to achieve your goal – be professional and thorough about turning over the ones that indirectly effect your abilities too.

(note- the following Mentor Message has been slightly edited – removing some Canadian Olympic Team specific materials)


No stone unturned

<La version française suit>

Days are getting shorter, darker and colder… Yay! Winter!! Which also means that in 4 months it’s Game-On!!!

One of the many things that makes the Olympics different from the countless other competitions that you go to, World Cups, X-Games, and World Championships, is the involvement of your friends and family (F&F).

Some of F&F’s may have been very hands-on, and fully present throughout your career while others may have been supporting you at a distance – letting you do “your thing”. The Olympics tend to be “the” event that gets everyone uniquely excited. It makes people feel that they should get more…involved. For the F&F that have been with you throughout your sport career – at your side through all the highs and lows –it’s natural to want them to share in the ultimate of sporting competitions

While an increase in F&F involvement, curiosity and attendance is great – it’s important to make sure that everyone understands what level of “involved” is best for you and your success at the Olympics. Continue reading