Last month, Calgary hosted the best of the best.
For 27 years, U SPORTS – the national governing body of university sport in Canada – has invited a diverse roster of nominees for annual awards that recognize the excellence of Canadian university students “on and off the field.”
This year’s ceremony in early May, held at Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and the McDougall Centre, honoured eight students, one male and one female, from each of the four national U SPORTS conferences: Canada West (CW), Ontario University Athletics (OUA), Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ), and Atlantic University Sport (AUS).
This year was also perfect timing for the award organizers to implement two dynamic changes.
The former BLG (Borden Ladner Gervais) Awards program was relaunched as the Lieutenant Governor Athletic Awards, sponsored by Makadiff Sports, the Alberta-wide not-for-profit organization created to encourage the growth and development of amateur sport through financial support of worthy innovative initiatives.
In addition to saluting Canada’s finest student athletes, the event also featured a leadership summit to ready the athletes for leadership “on and off the field.” The workshop was led by Calgary’s distinguished Dr. Cari Din, an Olympic silver medallist and leadership behaviour instructor in the faculty of kinesiology at the University of Calgary.
“Leadership growth is possible in sport but happens best when we intentionally enable understanding and practice,” Din explains. “Self-awareness, knowledge of core values, capacity to critically reflect, manage conflict and communicate effectively are the five most important components of leadership.”
The award founders – the Honourable Doug Mitchell (respected Canadian lawyer, business leader and philanthropist) and the Honourable Lois Mitchell (lieutenant-governor of Alberta) – are enthusiastic about the added leadership training aspect of the event.
For Lt.-Gov. Mitchell, the program complements the reality of student-athlete life. “The focus is on a fore-fronted leadership role on campus and a chance to readily reflect on your own purpose, both within a university and beyond.
“It doesn’t matter what realm you’re in. If you’re interested in other people and you care about other people, you can do anything. You can switch from being a star athlete to anything that you need to, because you are no longer thinking just about yourself,” the congenial lieutenant-governor points out.
Doug Mitchell underscores the newly-added emphasis on leadership, in sports and in life. “Each year, I am amazed by the quality of the student athletes and their ability to combine excellence in their studies and in their chosen sport.
“When you can formalize the leadership skills that students learn from participating in sports and transition that into the professional world, it can enhance their careers dramatically.”
From the eight Canadian university athlete nominees, this year’s Lieutenant Governor Athletic Awards ceremony recognized Mathieu Betts, a football player from the Laval Rouge et Or and Kiera Van Ryk, a volleyball player from the UBC Thunderbirds as Canada’s USPORTS athletes of the year.
There is consensus the awards ceremony and the leadership skills summit were a double-barrelled and unique success.
“It’s a chance to recognize these amazing leaders – on the court, on the ice, on the field – and prepare them to be amazing people, which is what they already are in life,” Lois Mitchell says with positivity.