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The Sport Information Resource Centre
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The Sport Leaders Retreat is a “leadership development boot camp” for sport leaders from provincial/territorial, national and multi-sport organizations. Hosted by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport and the Sport Law & Strategy Group, the program is designed to help sport leaders access to new ways of relating to self, others and the world around them. The 2019 deadline for applications for the Sport Leaders Retreat is February 15, 2019. Click here for more information.

Today’s blog, by Sport Leaders Retreat facilitator Dina Bell-Laroche, shares insight from previous participants about their experiences at the Retreat.

Recently, the Financial Post ran a story on sharing high-level risks that caught my attention. CDP, a global non-profit group that gathers data used for ranking companies on risk disclosures, noted that more publicly-traded companies are sharing high-level risks related to environmental, social and governance issues. The goal is to help investors make informed decisions about long-term performance.

Within the sport sector, a similar approach is supported through the Risk Management Project, a partnership between the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) and the Sport Law & Strategy Group (SLSG). Funded by Sport Canada, the program is now entering its 12th year and the impact has been transformative, according to research conducted by Brock University. As the primary facilitator I can attest to the impact that sharing high-level risks has had on the groups we’ve worked with. Typically, sport leaders feel a mixture of anxiety, relief and hope as we begin to document the issues that are keeping them up at night or opportunities they are longing to explore but haven’t, as they are too busy putting out fires.

Sound familiar?

Addressing Risk by Building Leadership Capacity

One of the best strategies to combat some of the top-level risks facing sport today is to strengthen the leadership capacity of current and future sport executives. Without this proactive approach, sport will not attract and retain leaders with the skills required to navigate the complexities of leading in today’s environment. To help sport combat this high-level risk, the Sport Leaders Retreat was created to provide helpful, practical and inspiring leadership training that can be immediately applied “back at the ranch.”

Tracey Bilsky, Sport Yukon on “small changes for big outcomes”

Meet Tracey Bilsky, a long-time sport leader and the Executive Director of Sport Yukon. When asked about the impact of the retreat on her own personal growth and development as a leader, here is what she offered: “The biggest impact of the Sport Leaders Retreat is the realization of how differently people not only communicate their own thoughts but also how they receive mine. How Dina explains the NOVA Profile concepts, in a non-judgmental way, opens the door to a better understanding of how to assess situations and people, and determine, with practice and intention, how best to formulate conversations, direction and responses. I have been able to quickly make some small changes, with the intention of creating even bigger change in the future. It has given me new and exciting goals that I know will positively affect my success at work and in my personal life.”

Part of supporting sport leaders in making better decisions is to ensure they are aware of their own personal approach to “risk taking” which draws from deeply-held beliefs and attitudes that live at the subconscious level. Once leaders become more aware of their personal approach they can better address the risks by asking less obvious questions and intentionally surrounding themselves with others who don’t see the world quite the way they do. From experience, this approach is one of the best ways to safeguard against group think and to avoid confirmation bias.

When asked what leadership skills the Sport Leaders Retreat helped to strengthen, Tracey had this to say, “I have been too comfortable doing the same things and directing and leading the same way for years now. It was time to be more effective and to modernize my process for change and influence. The Sport Leaders Retreat was a form of ground zero for me, where I was able to assess current ways of leading and compare those to new possibilities. Some of these changes I could make immediately, which was exciting. Some of the other changes will take some time to implement as I look to strengthen my leadership muscles with deliberate practice.”

By sharing her experience with others, Tracey is demonstrating compassion and vulnerability, two leadership muscles that increase trust. The big issues facing sport today require all of us to work better together and to ensure we are connected around what matters most – shared values. By committing to learning more about self, leaders are better able to deal with the risks they face in a more thoughtful and proactive manner.

Rebecca Khoury, Consultant on “professional evolution”

Meet Rebecca Khoury, a long-time sport volunteer, former elite athlete, and consultant who believes in the concept of kaizen. “Continuous learning is key to professional evolution. Practical, short, intense immersive type trainings are the best for greater impact. I invested and I am very happy I did. The Sport Leaders Retreat is the best $2K I ever spent on education.” In addition, Rebecca spoke about the design of the Sport Leaders Retreat and how transformative it was for all participants. “Due to the professional delivery, to the high level of executive coaching and sport knowledge of Dina Bell-Laroche, the perfect country setting chosen combined with the emotional intelligence and openness of all of the leaders participating… created an impressive combination of factors that made the individual transformation so powerful and real.”

A central part of the Sport Leaders Retreat is the tangible and relatable discussion had by sport leaders who weren’t talking about leadership but rather sharing real life stories about challenges, hopes, and solutions to complex problems. For instance, one of the tools used during the Sport Leaders Retreat is the NOVA Profile. According to Rebecca, the NOVA is “a simple, clear and accurate no-nonsense tool that helped me better understand who I am as a leader in both my natural and adaptive states – and how to better relate with the people around me in my work and personal settings. It gave me concrete steps and actions to take to deepen my introspective skills, both through the personal executive coaching from Dina and through my shared experience with the others.”

When asked what she appreciated most about the experience, Rebecca spoke about her personal growth, working and learning alongside “a room full of very smart, dedicated, passionate sport leaders – all very different and yet so similar. Sharing with the best amongst the best – that is how you become the best. It is about living our values on the field of play, the gym, the pool, the track, the mats… as well as in the front offices of sport.”

Truer words have rarely been spoken.

For more information about the Sport Leaders Retreat click here.

The deadline for applications is February 15, 2019.


About the Author(s)

Dina Bell-Laroche, BJ, MA, Integral Master Coach™, joined the Sport Law & Strategy Group in 2009. She has worked for a number of sport organizations since 1991, including the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, the Canadian Olympic Committee, the True Sport Foundation, and Equestrian Canada.


The information presented in SIRC blogs and SIRCuit articles is accurate and reliable as of the date of publication. Developments that occur after the date of publication may impact the current accuracy of the information presented in a previously published blog or article.