Hope on the Horizon

Published January 12, 2022

As we turn our tired hearts to 2022, the team members at Sport Law are here to support sport leaders, coaches, athletes, and volunteers through the pandemic. This blog highlights some of the strategic issues we are monitoring in 2022 – our hope is that it serves our clients as they prepare for the year ahead. If you haven’t yet seen our brand film, take a moment to consider how you can join us in elevating sport.

  1. Better governance. We appreciate the dedication of volunteers who serve on Boards, and we know how challenging these times have been. Some of the governance trends we are tracking include:
    • Plan to succeed. Ensure that your organization has a relevant strategic plan with updated success indicators. Given current uncertainties, we recommend that strategic plans with shorter timeframes that focus on intermediate goals (2-3 years out) with a targeted emphasis on what success looks like over the next year to 18 months. Beyond that, it’s a guessing game. For help with strategic planning, please connect with Cheryl at CAH@sportlaw.ca.
    • Manage risks by managing by values. If the pandemic has taught us one important lesson, it’s the importance of treating your people well. We are seeing this play out at all levels of sport and believe a Management by Values ethos is what will help you retain your top talent. At Sport Law, we collaborated with the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) and pioneered a refreshing new way to support National and Multi-Sport Organizations in enhancing their risk management efforts. This includes the development of risk management policy, a risk registry, and strategic communications to keep people informed and connected. People want to know the organizations they work for stand for something – let your values serve as your organization’s moral compass. For risk management support, please connect with our resident risk management expert Jason at JER@sportlaw.ca.
    • Enhance operational excellence: A key element of risk management is prevention - removing or reducing risk from happening in the first place, rather than risk mitigation afterwards. One area often overlooked in risk prevention is operations. There is so much to focus on including board governance, management of staff, delivery of programs, safety, education, and training of athletes, coaches, officials, and volunteers - that sometimes operations fall off the radar.  It is to our detriment that we don’t put in the effort to ensure our back of house is in order, particularly when it comes to fraud. It’s an f-word that is barely mentioned but frequently experienced in the sport world. Guilt, shame, or desire not to have the information go public, prevents sport organizations from sharing our stories. Organizational excellence includes open and transparent hiring practices, having contracts in place for all staff and contractors, reviewing terms of reference for committees, purchasing the correct insurance, and ensuring corporate documentation and reporting is up to date and safely and securely stored. . Sport Law is here to share solutions. If you are looking for assistance on fraud prevention, ways to improve operational efficiencies or for other Human Relations support, please contact Robin at rlw@sportlaw.ca
    • Create an environment where people can do their best work. Sport organizations are refreshing their human resource policies to adapt to a new virtual environment. At Sport Law, we have been virtual since 1992, so we know this approach can work. We also know it demands high trust, greater accountability, frequent communications, and flexibility. Our best advice is to check in with your people to see what return to the workplace looks like for them and be prepared for a hybrid model as we continue to manage through the pandemic. To continue to weather this storm, the Board and Senior Staff must create thriving workplace cultures that leave people feeling valued and compensated. For ways to enhance your organization’s workplace culture, please connect with Integral Coach and workplace mental health consultant Stephanie at SMP@sportlaw.ca.
    • Invest in safe sport as a dividend, not a tax. Many organizations are experiencing the compounding demands of safe sport as a tax, but our hope is to help organizations reframe this mission critical commitment as a dividend. Physical and psychological safety is a fundamental right for all participants that requires legal and moral imperatives to be realized. We know that high trust relationships create a solid foundation that nurture healthy interactions between people. In our experience, sport organizations are currently ill-equipped to deal with increasing complaints. At Sport Law, we have designed a comprehensive Safe Sport Implementation Strategy that engages all stakeholders in being advocates for a safer and more inclusive environment. For support with implementing your safe sport commitments, please connect with LJ at LJB@sportlaw.ca.
  2. Training people to succeed. Great organizations make a commitment to provide their people with ongoing opportunities to advance their skills. Sport Law will continue to support clients through several existing and new training offerings including:
    • Learning workshops: These 2-hour virtual workshops about improving organizational performance are great for Boards and staff.
    • Board of Directors Training: We are proud to offer training for Board members including orientation sessions, policy development renewal, Board recruitment, and so much more. An exciting new learning experience to enhance the knowledge of the Board of Directors is coming soon so stay tuned!
    • Give the gift of self-knowledge that generates more empathy for others. The NOVA Profile is a leading psychometric tool that Sport Law has been exclusively licensed to offer in sport and we’ve had the pleasure of using it with dozens of sport organizations to enhance their organizational culture. In addition, we are leading more Sport Leaders Retreats virtually for both administrators and technical leaders in 2022. To learn more about how we can support organizations through the use of the NOVA, please connect with Lauren at LLB@sportlaw.ca.
  3. Communicate to inspire. In our 15 years of supporting dozens of sport organizations in their risk management efforts, we’ve seen how this can escalate risk and conflict. To support your efforts, ensure you have a strategic communications plan that aligns with your strategic plan, and that identifies your various stakeholders and the mediums you will be using to connect with them. We recommend developing a crisis management strategy that outlines your organization’s key messages, how you plan to manage crises, spokespeople training, and your media relations efforts. Ensure that your spokespeople are trained and can speak with confidence. In addition, have someone peer review your documents for accuracy and readability, which will reflect positively on your brand. Finally, develop a social media strategy that supports your organization’s brand, aligns with your mission, and reflects your values. Sport Law has several communications specialists to support your needs; for more information, please contact Dina at DBL@sportlaw.ca or Taylor at TMM@sportlaw.ca.
  4. New ways of doing business. New priorities, emerging challenges, and changing expectations are demanding that sport organization change the way they do business. We encourage  our clients to conduct reviews to proactively address issues that have surfaced, pause to scan the environment (using the Sport Law comprehensive method) before launching new strategies, engage people through multiple methods to fuel higher trust, conduct internal “culture” pulse checks to evaluate how staff are feeling, and develop briefing documents when conceptualizing innovative ways to mitigate risks and advance new possibilities and develop comprehensive business plan to support thorough and thoughtful implementation. Whether your end goal is a new program or a cultural transformation, please connect with Linda LKM@sportlaw.ca, Sydney at SNM@sportlaw.ca, or Bruce at BWD@sportlaw.ca.
  5. Foster belonging. A measure of success is how diverse an organization is. We define diversity in a broad sense, and we have been encouraging Boards and senior leadership to have as “diverse” a team as possible to ensure that organizations’ leadership reflects the people they serve. We have written about fostering a greater sense of belonging and our high hope for 2022 is that we move to inspired action by walking the talk. One way we are supporting organizations is through our RISE UP (Return to Inclusive Sport Unites People) implementation strategy. Sport Law’s Mel Knox is a human rights lawyer who specializes in creating cultures of belonging where people feel seen, heard, and valued. For ways to support your EDI (equity, diversity, and inclusivity) sport initiatives, please connect with Mel at MNK@sportlaw.ca.
  6. Promote financial literacy. Ensure that you have reviewed your financial policies to meet current legal requirements and funder expectations. Having a Chartered Accountant or someone who is trained and has extensive knowledge in how to mitigate financial risks while promoting fiscal health is a must have for sport organizations from playground to podium. Sport Law’s Kathy Hare has been supporting sport organizations over the past decade by improving their financial systems, reviewing their auditing requirements, and providing much needed business management support. If you are interested in learning more about how Sport Law can support you in this area, please reach out to Kathy at KEH@sportlaw.ca.
  7. Proactive complaint management. Last year had sport leaders reviewing their policies to ensure they were compliant with the Universal Code of Conduct to Prevent and Address Maltreatment in Sport (UCCMS). This next year, we anticipate that more changes will be needed as the new Safe Sport Mechanism launches via the SDRCC. Sport Law has been drafting policies since 1992 and we are considered the go to place to support sport leaders in their legal, policy, and complaint management needs.  As the safe sport landscape continues to evolve, we are here to ensure your complaint management policies are updated. In addition, we are here to support sport organizations who will continue to need legal advice for issues that aren’t related to maltreatment including investigations, case management, employment and general legal inquiries. We also offer legal assistance and representation for complaints, as well as internal and external appeals. Please connect with one of our experienced Sport Law lawyers: Michelle at MLK@sportlaw.ca, Will at WDR@sportlaw.ca or LeeAnn LLC@sportlaw.ca. For policy support, our resident policy expert Kevin can be reached at KRL@sportlaw.ca.

At Sport Law, our commitment is to elevate sport. To help support a shift in consciousness with our clients and throughout the sector, we are working with clients to learn from other sectors, pause to reflect on better ways of working through tension, treat people fairly, communicate with purpose, and align their vision and mission with their cultural values. Sport Law’s Partners Steve and Dina are committed to finding a better way and working with the sector through keynotes, conversations, learning opportunities, and strategic alliances. If you are interested in learning more about what we do, why we do it, and ways we can work together to support sport, please connect with Steve at SJI@sportlaw.ca or Dina at DBL@sportlaw.ca.

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