Friday, September 18, 2009

Athletes' Council

When I got elected on to the Gymnastics Canada Board of Directors as the Athlete Representative, I had no idea what to expect. This was my first time on a Board and I was nervous, but really excited. I finally felt like this was my chance to start something, something bigger than I had imagined. It's a weird thing to feel so young when for so long in my sport I felt so old. I mean for the past few years I've been the 'mom' of the Rhythmic Gymnastics community...literally lol So walking into that first face to face meeting was terrifying. I felt like I was a child, who had no idea what she was doing. After one full day of meetings I gained my confidence and found my place in the boardroom. I did not want to be quiet (that is so not in my personality) so I made sure I spoke up. I really wanted to learn and be a part of what was going on. My fellow board members were so great and welcomed me with warmth and enthusiasm. I am very fortunate to be working among such highly experienced and intelligent people.

One of my first concerns was my actual role on the Board. What is expected from the athlete representative? More importantly, what do I want to do as the new rep? I wanted to make sure that I wasn't just a figurehead because the Board HAD to have an athlete rep. I wanted to make sure I actually used this position to do something. I have to admit once I saw how decisions were made and the very long and slow process it is I knew that I had to act fast.

My first real big proposal to the Board was the creation of a Gymnastics Canada Athletes' Council. It's not possible for me to know absolutely everything that is going on in all four disciplines (Men's Artistic, Women's Artistic, Trampoline and Rhythmic Gymnastics) and I honestly can't say I represent all of these athletes. An Athletes' Council would designate an athlete representative for each discipline that would speak with the athletes on a consistent basis and with me frequently. Therefore, each athlete would have a rep within their own sport to go to that would come to me where I can bring their issues to the Board level, where the decisions are made. It would strengthen communication between the disciplines and encourage athletes to speak up. I can't help our athletes if I don't know what their concerns are. I want to make the relationship between the NSO (National Sport Organization) and their athletes more positive and effective. Our athletes need to know that they can tell us what they like and don't like and what they're entitled to. Most athletes are so unaware of their rights and what is provided for them it's shocking.

At these past National Championships in Hamilton, Ontario I held an info session for all National team members across all disciplines. I wanted to introduce myself as their new rep and what my plans and goals are. I also gave them a crash course in everything that is out there for them, within Gymnastics Canada and organizations like AthletesCAN and the Canadian Olympic Committee. It was long and I talked for a good two hours straight, but it was an initial meeting. I'm hoping to have meetings at each Elite Canada and Nationals for every discipline every year. They will turn into brainstorming sessions for the athletes to meet with their rep and raise their voices.

Right now I am still pushing for an Athletes' Council to be put in place and included in the NSO policy. Everything that is worth it takes time and I am going to see this through. I will keep you all updated on the progress....

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