Instead of writing up a summary of the AthletesCAN Forum and sending it out to the Gymnastics Community, I thought of something better. My teammate Lauren Adolph, one very passionate young woman, wrote about her experience at Forum to help inspire our athletes. As their athlete rep, I feel like I'm always sending out emails to them, but coming from a recently retired teammate of theirs it might make more of an impact. I absolutely loved her letter and hope you all do too....
To all Members of the Canadian Gymnastics National Team,
Last weekend I attended the most amazing and life-altering event of my life! Now, I know that’s a cliché and you’re probably thinking, “well, she’s a bit over the top,” (those who know me would probably add that I easily leap to such dramatics when confronted by sport intermingled with inspiration). This week has been nonstop “Oh Lauren, how was your weekend? What did you do again?” So then I’d explain, but some audiences just didn’t get it. This weekend, I think I could say with some certainty that the name of the game (no pun intended) was “How to affect real change.” So you can imagine the response I got from those who were, let’s say, “youthfully challenged.” I am coming to the sad realization that the word ‘change’ is stolen on one’s 30th birthday and there are only a handful of people willing to fight for it back. So now that I have confessed my bias on the subject, I would like to recount just the facts (without embellishment) so you can see for yourself. So here is my ode to AthletesCAN Forum 2009.
Each morning started with an hour of yoga and went right into an amazing (oh, sorry no adjectives) breakfast. We then entered the Delta Hotel Richmond’s ballroom where we began a day of super fascinating presentations. The first speaker was the President of AthletesCAN, who answered my burning question: “What is AthletesCAN?” It is the only independent organization that represents senior national team athletes across Canada. They are the people, who have brought you the Bell Mobility cell phone plan, Sport Solutions (free legal representation for sport related issues), and a strong voice with such organizations as CCES (Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport – you’ll know these folks intimately if you’ve ever had to pee in a cup?), and Sport Canada. They are willing to take the blunt end of any argument with GCG that might otherwise cause you, as a current national team member, severely negative political repercussions. They are full of information on issues relevant to you – including the latest anti-doping laws and carding rules – and how AthletesCAN has a voice in funding policy. After three years on National Team, I had never heard of AthletesCAN nor realized what a great resource it could be; thanks to Alex Orlando, who currently serves on the AthletesCAN board, for enlightening me and now you.
We heard next from a panel of three outstanding speakers. All shared their stories of how, as an elite athlete, they learned to survive, find a balanced life, and succeed in retirement. To my utter joy these speakers, no matter their sports background, were repeating my life’s journey, but with the added wisdom I would have died for during my career. It is also worth noting that these people I had so much in common with were Olympic athletes… gold medal Olympic athletes…three time Olympic athletes… and our own Alexandra Orlando. I’m not sure how much more amazing one weekend can be, but there was more.
Then our afternoon was filled with workshops directly aimed at improving the efficiency of National Athlete Representatives. Problems discussed were insufficient on ineffective athlete representation on National Sports Organizations (NSOs) Boards; in many cases where athlete reps are members of NSO Boards, their opinions are ignored, as their presence is seen as purely symbolic.
We would sit around roundtables, diligently compiling practical life strategies for making headway with our power hungry Boards. And I would glance at all the right hands scribbling notes or tapping thoughtfully, when I noticed 90 percent of those hands were wearing a heavy gold ring embossed with the Olympic rings.
So this is what I got out of my weekend (besides being awe-inspired by these giants of sport): I believe in the power of sport. I learned that sport can change our health, our communities, the way we connect with each other; sport develops forward-thinking leaders, promotes responsible citizenry, prevents crime, inspires kids to think more, dream more, be more. In the words of one of the participants, a Paralympic gold-medal swimmer, “It is our responsibility as elite athletes to dare youth to be fearless to dream.”
My hope is to inspire you to believe that real change is possible. Through utilizing your athlete rep and AthletesCAN – who only exist to serve you – you can have a voice. Only you know what’s relevant. Otherwise, it’s like having a new Ferrari F430 in the garage, but no map. You can roar around the block a few times, make lots of noise to impress the neighbours, but you never really get anywhere.
I share this with you in the hope that you speak up, share your challenges and concerns, and are ultimately free to focus on what an elite athlete should: training hard, staying healthy and reaching your goals.
Retired Rhythmic Gymnastics National Team Member
“I believe in the power of sport”