The Goal is Safe, Inclusive Sport for All

It’s not just hockey…

Sport Boards are responsible for ensuring that their members (athletes, coaches, staff) are being properly served by the Leadership (CEO, HP Director, and Head Coach) that they put in place.

Watching Hockey Canada’s CEO and Board ignore the mounting evidence being presented in media – that significant leadership change had to happen to re-establish trust for the sport to even begin a process to correct governance gaps and the sports cultural and safe-sport failings – was hard for some in other sports, like bobsleigh, gymnastics and rowing to watch. If it took repeated demands from the Federal Sport Minister, retention of millions of dollars in fees from Provincial Hockey Associations and more than 12 significant sponsors reducing, pausing or cancelling their support for hockey to achieve change – what chance do smaller sports have?

Recently Rubin Thomlinson completed a review of Rowing Canada’s High-Performance environment looking at the last (approx.) 10 years. ( +2 points for Rowing Canada Aviron (RCA) for getting the review done and posting it, -5 points for how long and the effort took. )

The results of the review are posted on Rowing Canada’s web site, and the accompanying Appendix files are, frankly, shocking to me. These results should be a clear indicator to RCA board members that Rowing is not being managed well by its Leadership and that change is needed immediately. When are they going to accept the evidence that has been presented to them?

over 50% of people surveyed describe their experience with RCA’s high-performance environment as negative.

Over 85% !!! of people surveyed witnessed, experienced or heard maltreatment

Over 25% of those surveyed said they wouldn’t report maltreatment

The survey group includes athletes, staff, board members and contractors over the last 10 years;

From Appendix C of the RCA Independent High Performance Review Report
From Appendix C of the RCA Independent High Performance Review Report
From Appendix C of the RCA Independent High Performance Review Report

Why would they not report maltreatment? Fear of reprisal is a likely answer. People are afraid to report because they are afraid if they speak out, opportunities for selection/jobs and funding will be removed.

This summer, I was met with reprisal within an RCA environment. After accepting an invitation from a coach to speak to a group of rowers in their training camp (some of whom were part of the Olympic gold medal women’s eight), I was told that staff felt that my presence in a Rowing Canada camp would be a problem. For me to be unwelcome in any Canadian sport environment was shocking, and the only explanation for the staff’s concern is that the leadership was unhappy that I had signed a letter of concern, requesting an independent 3rd party review of their culture and governance.  I spoke up and then got pushed out.

It was a good first step that RCA brought in Allison Forsyth, a Safe Sport expert and consultant from ITP Sport, to “support the athletes and the organization in providing a deeper level of education and a plan to rebuild Safe Sport culturally at RCA”. She is helping to recognize past and present practices that cause(d) harm and even trauma. But it doesn’t address the constant and sustained failings of RCA’s leadership that have resulted in a chronic lack of trust in RCA to respond appropriately.

Beyond governance and culture there are many other issues of concern with rowing right now. The National Team training centre is being pushed into a location that has water quality concerns, is not ready with infrastructure and is challenging for athletes to find affordable housing. The National Championships have been scheduled without input from the Canadian University Rowing Committee. The result will limit the pipeline and development of student athletes. And with a lack of National leadership and support for provincial coaching growth and development, rowing will be excluded from future Canada Games. This could result in catastrophic loss of funding to some Provincial Sport Organizations.

Rowing Canada acknowledges that its next steps is to develop an Action Plan. There are many of us that would like them to see from the evidence – that, like in Hockey, there will be no trust in the Action Plan if the same leadership that steered RCA through the past is in place for the future.

If you are a rower, parent of rower, rowing coach or rowing official and have concerns with this information – you can…

  1. Read the full report, not just the summary; read the Appendixes to see all the survey results. Posted Oct. 3 on Rowing Canada’s web page. (scroll down)
  2. Send an email to your club, your PSO and/or to a RCA Board Member) asking for a performance review of leadership; it’s time to accept the evidence.
  3. reply to / share this post.

The Value of Your Story – and Thank You

<La version française suit>

How and what we reflect on an experience continues to evolve for years.

Holy moly. It’s mid October 2021!! We’ve been home from Tokyo for two months already and the 2022 Olympic Winter Games are less than four months away?!! How does time move so slowly and then whoosh… it just takes off?!!

It’s taken me longer than expected to write this (last) message to you. I’m sorry about that – but perhaps you understand. I had a great time coming home; getting caught up and reconnected mentally, physically and emotionally. But as happens after every major Games something was missing, and once again that affected me; but I’m coming through it now. Ah nee nah

My delay came from a waning feeling of purpose. Perhaps you’ve felt this too. Preparing for the Olympics has always made defining my daily why and what for my pre-Games days, weeks and months so easy. I’ll admit that I’ve come home from more than a few Games into a doldrums of purpose that could get dark at times. Dark…that’s the word my generation used for depressing. I would often get depressed after Games, but I was lucky – it rarely took much for me to refresh my purpose and spirit. I know that Game Plan advisors have reached out to you (all the athletes), and I took great comfort in that. They are still available to you, don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it. Ah nee nah

That five year cycle was a grind, and the next (if you’re hungry for more) – at only three years – will crank up quickly. Take the time you need to recover, get your physical and emotional battery back in the top half and determine what your new whats and whys are going to be; it’s important for your future physical and mental performance. 

I strongly believe in the message I sent as you left Japan; that everything that you gave there, your Olympic Everything, was far more than just your performance in Tokyo (or Sapporo). It was more than just your talents on the field of play.

I want to draw your attention to the value of you and the story that you have to share now. The skills that you gained from your Olympic campaign during a pandemic would stand up in any executive training environment. While the world is talking about the need for resilience, you and your team exemplified how to creatively adapt and roll with the roughest seas all while keeping your eyes on your prize. Talking about goal-setting is one thing, but a conversation with you on goal-achieving would be a master class. Please don’t forget that.

Your story – this adventure you’re living – has incredible worth. How you value things like 1cm, 1/100th of a second, a point or ½ kg is inspirational. Think about what you know about commitment, preparation, managing change and challenge, team work, communication, stress management, mental/physical health management, resetting after victory/resetting after loss, and of course – resilience. What you take for granted as common practice is mind-blowing to others.

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We laugh, we cry, we go home with more…

It seems to take forever for the Olympics to finally come and then – in what seems like the blink of an eye – it’s time to go. 

Congratulations on everything. I mean everything – your Olympic everything was more than your performance here. Your everything includes the tremendous amount of work that you did, the ups, the downs, the go homes, the stay homes. It includes the wins, the losses, the no competitions, the injuries, the ‘repairs’, and the countless choices that affected your family/career/education. Through all of that,you made it to this global mountaintop –the Olympics. 

I hope you are going home feeling great about your performance and the same about your result. I know that this isn’t the case for everyone, but a part of you, that will grow with time and perspective, should be really proud of what you’ve accomplished.  

We tend to get so emotionally committed to the result that it feels as if we ARE the result, but that’s not true. Regardless if we win, lose or land somewhere in between, the result does not define us. Who you are doesn’t change because you are an Olympian; who you are remains determined by what you already had –what is in your head, and what is in your heart.

The Olympics is an environment where, by definition, everyone — including you – is extraordinary at their sport. This is the crème de la crème: entry is limited by qualification and there are countless competitors who tried but couldn’t get here. Despite the length and chaos of this 5-year cycle, you made it and you did the best you could. That is amazing. Bravo! 

The performance (think about what you did,not how you did), was the target of your preparation – it was yours to give. You came to the Olympics on a foundation of confidence – proud of the work that you, your teammates, your coaches and everyone around you had done. Results don’t make that more or less worthy. Don’t forget the value of your work when the task is over; that preparation was your epic story.

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Let Me Introduce My Tsewtsáwḵen Drum

Me and my drum are often the only fan in the stands. I came to have it through ceremony with purpose. The ceremony was conducted by Xwechtaal Elder Dennis Joseph along with Joseph’s son Ghee-ka-laas (Koru Joseph)

My drum has been with me to over 21 Olympic venues, witnessing over 40 Olympic competitions. We’re getting around – and we have a purpose! I’ll begin with Huy chexw – thank you to Tewanee, Rae-Ann, Koru, Timu, and Melina Joseph for this beautiful gift. Huy chexw Xwechtall, Elder Dennis Joseph for leading the work that was done. Huy chexw to Tsawaysin Spukwas, Alice Guss for making it and to Koru for the beautiful design.

It’s heard across Olympic venues every day, the drum is the heartbeat of the First Nations but has also quickly become the heartbeat of Team Canada in Tokyo. “I had wanted a drum so that Team Canada could hear that someone was there for them,” said McBean. “When I asked Tewanee if this was an appropriate use – he said that it would be and that a drum represents the heartbeat of a community. I knew then this was for friends and family so that their heartbeat could resonate across stadiums. I don’t always know if the athletes can hear it, but I know the families would be making noise – so I make as much noise as I can.”

Joseph, who was CEO of the Four Host First Nations for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, presented the drum, messages from the Squamish Nation community as well as orange lapel ribbons to Canadian Olympic Committee President Tricia Smith.

I spoke with Anastacia Bucis about the drum for an RBC Spotlight feature.

Smith was joined by Olympian Christine Nesbitt, John McBean (Marnie’s brother), Mike Bryden (husband to the late rowing champion Kathleen Heddle), Olympian Clara Hughes, and Tewannee’s daughter Sx̱ánanulh (Melina Joseph) who were called as witnesses. The ceremony was conducted by Xwechtaal Elder Dennis Joseph along with Tewanee’s son Ghee-ka-laas (Koru Joseph). 

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