Thursday, January 13, 2011


Most people when they see "AtheletsCAN" think of the plethora of messages from the mailing list O-squad. Some may not even recognize the name having created an email filter long ago. I had been following the emails irregularly but was contemplating ways of cutting back on extraneous emails from my inbox. Then, Brent asked if any Ottawa folks would be interested in attending the annual AthletesCAN Forum in late October since it was being held in Gatineau. After much indecision on my part and occasional prompting from Brent, Jeff and I decided we would go. I had accumulated some knowledge of the organization from the emails and limited perusing of their website but I couldn't see why Brent was so excited about us going to the forum and AthletesCAN in general. Sure, he's an energetic guy, but he was more enthusiastic then usual. As it turns out, there was good reason for Brent's involvement and persistence. Here are some questions that I had going into the forum and the answers I found coming out:

What is AthletesCAN, really?

If you check out their About Us page, you'll find a lot of high level mission statements and what not, but in short, AthletesCAN is a group of national team athletes, looking after fellow national team athletes. Let's think about this for a second. Imagine an organization full of active and retired athletes from all different sports, all very passionate about what they do, and all looking to support and develop sporting in Canada! Not only is this really cool but it's completely centered around Canada's National Team Athletes.

What does AthletesCAN do? that is, other then writing us emails...

Turns out quite a bit. AthletesCAN is an association for all sports in Canada. This is significant because, as Jeff and I found out at the forum, there are a lot of sports in this country. Some are big (hockey), some small (kayaking) and some virtually unknown... To rub shoulders with Olympians fresh out of the Vancouver Olympics and hear them complain about their National Sports Organization (our NSO is the COF) was both humbling and enlightening. Like any institution they draft proposals, write recommendations, hold elections but they do other stuff too.

Why should I care?

In some ways you can consider AthletesCAN as a connection to the big fish. There are multiple programs and services they offer to national team athletes. These include: comprehensive telecommunications services1 with Bell (a phone for free2), free Speaker's Training through Dale Carnegie, legal counseling, and most recently a Health & Dental Benefits Plan. You can see the full list of programs and services here. We're talking some real tangible benefits that can help you live your life at a daily level. Also, AthletesCAN is deeply involved with Sports Canada which, distributes a very large quantity of funding to NSO's and athletes alike.

Where does Brent fit into all this?

As a former National Team member, Brent is our elected Athletes' Representative. In other words, he is the link between us the orienteerers, the COF and AthletesCAN. The Athlete Rep is a voting member of the COF's Board of Directors as well as the High Performance Committee. It's Brent's job to communicate with us and make sure our interests are represented at the higher levels. In effect, create positive change for us and orienteering too.

So, if you're aspiring to make a National Team, on the team, or recently retired, there is support should you need it. If you have a query or a concern about a policy or some administrative decision, talk to your friendly Athlete Representative.

Orienteering is a sport, and all though it is relatively small compaired to some, it is none the less a part of the bigger picture. Folks like Charlotte and Brent, to name two of many, are actively developing and growing the organization so that we can focus on what's important. Know that, while we slog through base training, sights set on 2011, there are people behind the scenes working hard to help us achieve our goals and dreams.

  1. Only for Senior National Team athletes. Keep training Juniors, you'll get there eventually.
  2. So long as you stay on the National Team. For complete details visit the AthletesCAN website.