Athlete Perspective: The Value of MentorshipDecember 19, 2018
SIRC’s Athlete Perspective series provides insight and recommendations on key issues from an athlete’s perspective. The collection of blogs and SIRCuit articles profiles Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes and taps into their lived experience.
Success isn’t accomplished alone. It takes a balance of hard work, open mindedness, and most importantly, mentorship. As long ago as 1978, the Harvard Business Review noted that “everyone who makes it has a mentor” (Schrubbe, 2003). Over the last few years, I have had the privilege of being mentored by some of Canada’s top sport leaders, some of these people include Lisa Thomaidis, Bruce Craven, Dr. Heather Logan-Sprenger, Catherine Gosselin-Despres, Mike Frogley, Chelsey Gotell, and Dr. Scott Thomas. As most of them come from different backgrounds (i.e., research, administration, coaching, sport science, and governance), what they all have in common is the willingness to give back, share life lessons, inspire the people around them, and push people to their limits.
Where leaders were once seen to control, plan, and inspect the operations of an organization, they are now seen as ones who motivate, inspire, and foster positive attitudes in the workplace or group (Hogan et al., 2004). For the most part, the majority of my mentors have come from leadership situations – they started as a leader who I respected and aspired to be like. I have never sought formal mentorship. Instead, these relationships developed organically and were based on shared values, interests, and the drive to succeed. In an article by Jackson et al., (2003), they concluded that effective mentoring requires a certain chemistry for an appropriate interpersonal match—the people involved need to have commonalities. A mentor-mentee pair that works well together and compliments one another is critical for success (Schrube, 2003).
Although the mentor-mentee relationship can be a lot of work, it can be a fruitful experience for both sides. Personally, having positive mentors in my life has increased my motivation, productivity, and self-efficacy – all critical outcomes of successful mentoring relationships identified in the literature (e.g., Higgins, 2000; Kay and Wallace, 2010; Sokaridis et al., 2014). Although there have been bumps along the way, the three most important things I have learned from my mentors is to always do your best; if you do not understand—ask questions; and that real growth comes from uncomfortable situations. The thing I appreciate most about my mentors is the support following failure. For the most part, we talk about what happened, why something did not work, and solutions moving forward. These conversations are non-judgmental and focus on actionable items that can be implemented in the future. Currently. I have a handful of people who I mentor, and these are strategies I use in my relationships with them.
As a Paralympian, researcher, board member, and most importantly, a person, I can confidently say that I would not be where I am if it wasn’t for mentorship and the people who’ve help me along the way.
About the Author(s)
Erica Gavel is a Paralympian, and a graduate student at the University of Toronto in the Department of Exercise Sciences. Erica competed in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympic Games and is a member of the Wheelchair Basketball Canada Senior Women’s National Team. In addition, Erica is a member of the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s Athlete Council and a Board member of the Ontario Basketball Association.
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