Hope on the Horizon Tour: Sport leaders speak up for a modern sport system

July 6, 2023 – (Ottawa, ON) Nearly 200 participants had a rewarding and positive experience with the first leg of the Hope on the Horizon Tour, joining Sport Law and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) to reclaim the promise of sport through a values-based approach to sport. The CCES and Sport Law have collaborated with provincial and territorial partners in Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Northwest Territories to host legal, leadership and True Sport workshops. 

The workshops tackled topics related to outdated governance systems, insufficient risk management practices, depleted staff and volunteers, and a misaligned and under-resourced system. Despite these challenges, participants left feeling hopeful and supported, with a renewed sense of optimism as they committed to working collaboratively to advance a values-based sport system, underpinned by the True Sport Principles.

“We are so moved by the deep desire of sport leaders to openly address the systemic issues that have been keeping sport stuck for decades. While we believe that the vast majority of sport leaders are behind a renewal of our system, we know that we can’t do this in isolation. Sport needs brave leaders to work in collaboration to demand a radical re-imagining that will help to ensure that participants have a safe, welcoming, and positive experience. We want people to succeed because of the system, not in spite of it,” shared Sport Law Partner, Dina Bell-Laroche.

“It was an honour to host the kickoff of the Hope on the Horizon Tour and to gather as a group of people who believe in the power of sport. These are challenging times and many of us are re-imagining what sport could be going forward. It was inspiring that the Hope Tour was a chance to get representatives from so many sports in one room to discuss the future of sport in our province. Leaders from Sport Law and the CCES provided practical advice to help with board issues and facilitated meaningful conversations about the importance of intentionally basing decisions on organizational values. We are ready to reclaim sport,” shared Gemma Koughan, Executive Director of Sport PEI.

"It was wonderful to bring people back together after so many years of being apart. We were inspired by what we heard, and we support a vision for sport that is welcoming, respectful, inclusive, and ethical. With the support of values-based leaders from Sport Law and the CCES, we also have trusted partners who can help us reduce risks and invest in quality leadership. We’re really looking forward to seeing how things play out across the country,” stated Troy Croft, Executive Director of Sport Newfoundland and Labrador.

 “We are really grateful to Sport Law and the CCES for inviting us to collaborate with them in what we feel is a pivotal time for sport. I think people are inspired by what we experienced and are looking forward to putting these tangible and practical leadership and legal solutions in place to reduce risks and, more importantly, to ensure we are creating a thriving environment for the young people we are here to support,” said Bill Othmer, Executive Director of Sport North.

As we traveled across the country, these are some of the most pressing issues and high hopes that we’ve heard about:

  • We need to address the root causes of unethical practices in sport, rather than treating only the symptoms. One participant had this to share: “We keep hearing that we need a public inquiry to focus on maltreatment. I believe that we need a public inquiry that will focus on how we can modernize our broken system so that we can become more effective, efficient, and ethical.”
  • We can embrace a values-based approach to foster a culture of sport that we are proud of, and the True Sport Principles are a good foundation upon which to build our policies, practices, and programs. Concerns about the cost of complying with safe sport requirements are weighing heavily on the shoulders of the volunteers we spoke with. As one participant shared: “Sport relies on volunteers to coach, officiate, and lead. What once was a labour of love is quickly becoming hard labour.”
  • Participants had many ideas for designing a sport system if we were starting at square one, such as making better use of school sport and the infrastructure already in place to provide quality physical literacy in children and youth, and leveraging existing recreation centres and professional staff who deliver accessible, affordable, and values-based programming in communities across the country.
  • Board of directors require education to ensure they understand their roles and responsibilities and can access sport-specific governance knowledge. With the recent announcement by the Minister of Sport requiring training for directors by April 2024, the online Governance Essentials e-learning program, will help enhance decision making, reduce risks, and enhance ethical practices.
  • There is an over-reliance on a volunteer system that is the foundation of the club delivery model. The sport system requires stronger alliances between existing delivery partners, sharing of best practices, new partners invited to the table, and working collaboratively. “We need people working together and sharing their best practices and the work they are doing in all the areas of sport. No more working in silos.”
  • Inadequate communications remain a top area of risk. Overwhelmed volunteers are not able to  prioritize communications to ensure participants receive updated information in the medium of their choice, which can contribute to lower levels of trust.
  • The financial and time requirements for adequate volunteer training and education to manage greater expectations is a double-edged sword. Volunteers are willing but the burden is high. “While we might want to get more training, who’s going to pay for it, and more importantly, who’s going to find the time to do all this new training? It’s too much to download on to volunteers,” shared one participant.
  • We would benefit from moving toward a system that considers the lived experiences of all participants and rewards good behaviour. This would require a shift in the way we measure progress, away from the focus on money and medals.

“There are many pressing issues that need to be addressed, and we are hopeful that we can proactively deal with the risk themes that have emerged from the first three stops. As we continue to travel across the country in the fall, we look forward to learning from other sport leaders who want to help shape a renewed sport system,” shared Karri Dawson, Executive Director of Values-Based Sport at the CCES.

The following collaborators have confirmed their participation in the Hope on the Horizon Tour:

  • Sport PEI                                                                                  April 20-21, 2023
  • Sport Newfoundland and Labrador                                       April 28-30, 2023
  • Sport North                                                                              May 26-27, 2023
  • Markel Canada (Toronto)                                                         September 12, 2023
  • Sport BC                                                                                   September 2023
  • Sport Yukon                                                                              October 26-28, 2023
  • Sport Nunavut                                                                          November 10-11, 2023
  • Sport New Brunswick                                                              November 23-24, 2023
  • Sask Sport                                                                                 2024
  • Sport Manitoba                                                                         2024
  • Brock University’s Centre for Sport Capacity (Niagara)     May 24-25, 2024
  • Other PTSOs                                                                             In discussion

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About Sport Law
Sport Law has been providing strategic insight to the Canadian sport community since 1992. We offer a full range of consulting, leadership coaching and legal services to the Canadian sport community. We are accessible, affordable, highly skilled, and bring experience and common sense to every project. Our vision is to elevate sport. To learn more about us please visit www.sportlaw.ca.

About the CCES
The CCES works collaboratively to ensure Canadians have a positive sport experience. Through its programs, the CCES manages unethical issues in sport, protects the integrity of Canadian sport, and promotes True Sport to activate values-based sport on and off the field of play. The CCES is an independent, national, not-for profit organization that is responsible for the administration of the Canadian Anti-Doping Program. The CCES acknowledges funding, in part, from the Government of Canada. For more information, visit cces.ca, follow us on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram.

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