Last year I sat down with a pack of athletes from across Canada and asked them to tell me the biggest dream of their lives. What struck me about that day was how powerful it was to hear so many vocalize what until then had only been a secret wish.
Vocalizing your dreams takes courage. There’s a fear that in hearing a dream out loud it will sound ridiculous. There’s a fear that others may misunderstand, make fun of, or worst of all- not believe in your dreams.
But some things need to be said.
I have a big dream. One day I would like the people of Canada to be perched on the edge of their seats, watching a ski race they missed work, or a day of school for. One day I would like to see Canadians holding their collective breath as a pack of skiers emerge over the last climb. In the final gasping push I would like Canadians to see not just one maple emerge from the pack, but a storm of red maples capturing medals.
The way our sport is currently operating in this country does not support this goal.
This year we posted the worst cross-country Olympic performance since 1998. That was followed by an athlete announcing changes to staffing on the national team, four weeks before CCC generated a press release. We’ve had a president resign, a training centre lose its national designation, and we have a World Cup team without any women.
I lay these issues out not to point blame. I don’t believe any one person or organization is responsible for where we are now. I think we as a community are responsible. This is our challenge.
Everyone; from athletes, club coaches, and peoples who’s salary is somehow tied to CCC know that our sport is facing serious problems. Instead of solution building, all we seem to do is complain about how everyone else is the problem.
The war of distrust and animosity between coaches, clubs, and CCC in this country is having an effect on athletes.
I am tired of watching us celebrate each other’s failures. We fight over athletes, scrap over funds and trip over our own egos in the process. Right now a lot of people are sitting in the sandbox crying that no one else is willing to play along- or worse- we’re trying to build a new, better sandbox to play in alone. It’s not working. This environment is toxic and it’s costing us all.
If we continue to wait for someone to solve our problems nothing will change.
I believe we have athletes right now in Canada with the potential to take podiums at World Cups and Olympics. I believe that collectively the coaches in Canada can create and support a system that will get them there.
I’m committing to being a coach dedicated to positive change in our country.
It’s my hope that colleagues across the country will join me in taking more accountability for the success of our sport moving forward. Maybe we can all think twice about the way we discuss problems. Maybe we can move forward as a community that shares each other’s success. And maybe someday we’ll all be left speechless by what our Canadian skiers can do.
That’s the challenge.