Restoring Trust: How measuring culture will help to elevate sport

Sport Law has been accompanying sport leaders since 1992, helping them address legal, governance and communications issues. During this time, we listened to the growing needs of leaders who were longing for leadership training opportunities to get ahead of the numerous risks that were keeping them up at night. In response, we pioneered an approach to risk management to support enhanced decision-making that continues to be offered through our alliance with the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport. To become more proactive, we published a book on how to manage by values based on the insights and lessons learned from 10 National Sport Organizations. This book offers practical solutions to engage stakeholders in a conversation about the values that underpin their sport system’s culture.  We didn’t stop there. In 2014, we set a vision to bring more Integral CoachingTM to the Canadian sport landscape – a heart-centered approach to supporting sport leaders, coaches and athletes based on a platinum level human development model. This led to many of our current training offers including the Sport Leaders Retreats (administrator and technical leaders editions), SupportZone, the Leaders’ Edge, Peer to Peer Support, Grief and Loss training, and so much more.

Then the pandemic hit. Our team members hit the ground running, modernizing existing approaches to help ensure organizations could still manage their governance commitments through Simply Voting. Our culture coaches became Zoom savvy and learned how to make use of technology to keep people connected even as the world was shutting down. Our leadership coaching practice blossomed as more leaders sought out trusted companions to help them replenish their depleted energies.

Holding self-care as an ethical imperative is considered a moral obligation for those of us in the helping profession and we believe it needs to become the norm for all leaders.

As sport prepares for re-entry after this two-year hibernation, we must acknowledge our current state before restoring trust. As truth seekers, we must be prepared to listen to the voices of those that have been disenfranchised, silenced or excluded for far too long. We must create the space for authentic conversations to happen. We must be willing to review our current state and make strategic and ethical commitments to deal with the fractured relationships and low levels of trust that have plagued sport for several years. The latest issues related to unsafe practices are but one of many unethical issues that have been pushing sport towards its best before date. To shift in a sustainable way – we must move beyond reviews and investigations toward a system and sector-wide inquiry to better address the root causes that have poisoned the landscape. To read more about some of our views, read this blog.

Death by 1000 reviews is not the sustainable solution.

We see sport as a natural and national treasure. As someone who benefited earlier on from the best that sport can offer, I continue to believe that we can restore trust in the system. But we can only do so if we address the moral crisis that sport is immersed in.

One of the latest Sport Law innovations is our recent alliance with innerlogic, a tech company whose mission is to help decision-makers access cultural data to inform strategic and ethical decision-making. This alliance was made possible because the leaders shared a common vision of elevating sport and of doing so in a manner that aligns with our values. We are indeed stronger together, playing to our respective zones of genius to be in service of a sector we both care deeply about.

The Sport Culture Index is Sport Law’s way to support sport leaders who care about measuring beyond money and medals, to also measure their culture. Culture is ‘our collective way of being’ and as we begin to pay attention to the various ways culture can impede or support the individual, we can get better at proactively dealing with issues before they needlessly escalate. The Sport Culture Index will allow us to share sector-wide trends, using big data, and offer customized solutions with the support of our culture coaches. By examining one’s culture through the 12 cultural domains, leaders are able to learn where they are thriving and where they might need attention. This dynamic and anonymous platform can assess the perception of athletes, coaches, officials, employees, Board of Directors and volunteers at the national, provincial/territorial, and community levels using the same survey questions. By deepening our understanding as a sector of what is and isn’t working, and making use of national benchmarks, we believe that Canada can be among the leading sport nations who will walk the talk with respect to fueling performance in alignment with values.

Money, medals and morals … sport’s triple bottom line.

Sport Law is thrilled to be working with progressive sport organizations to improve the Sport Culture Index and we have already been in discussion with dozens of other leaders who want to integrate this dynamic measurement tool into their organization’s performance dashboard.  We are fond of saying that sport expects athletes and coaches to be accountable for their performance through rigorous testing and analytics. It’s about time that the sport system modernizes its approaches to be inclusive of measuring culture as a form of holistic health. The risk of not doing so is being played out and has given rise to our current landscape.

We remain hopeful that sport will modernize its practices, invest in the health of its people, foster cultures of belonging, and reward holistic measurements. At Sport Law, we continue to find new ways to support sport leaders and we always appreciate hearing from those who are keen to work with us towards a safe, welcoming and measurable sport experience.

If you are curious about the Sport Culture Index or want to share your views, please send me your thoughts at dblaroche@sportlaw.ca.

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