Athlete Representation: Dive in and Be the Change
Mar 18, 2014 - Suzanne Weckend
The position of Athletes Representative (AR) on any national or international sport organization board is extremely important for a number of reasons. By creating a full position on a board for an athlete the organization is making a commitment to being athlete-centered.
Once an organization has decided it needs and wants athlete input it must do everything necessary to support the AR. Having a dedicated staff person is useful, creating an opportunity for the out-going and in-coming AR to meet face to face prior to the change over allows for continuity and successful succession execution and supporting relationship development with the AR and other board members is important. There’s a lot to get up to speed on and a lot to learn about the various roles and expectations of any organization when you’re the new kid on the block and therefore expecting to have to put in a lot of time upfront is important. The organization ensuring that the AR can jump right in means that they provide easy access to pertinent information and encourage the AR to speak up and ask questions. Ensuring action and engagement from all board members is the sign of a healthy organization.
Before “diving in” I would caution any future AR that they fully acknowledge all the commitments they currently hold outside this role. Having a job that is not related to an NSO or International MSO means I have to apply to take time away from my daytime job and that can be stressful and challenging. Knowing that you have the support of your work to take time off and volunteer elsewhere is important. Also, knowing that you have the support of your family in the case that you need to leave children at home with the other partner is imperative. Through experience I have come to realize that although there are clear needs that drove me to the positions I currently hold, that it is just as important that I am fulfilling some sort of need personally by taking on my roles.
Setting a vision for yourself in the role is highly motivating and makes it much easier to manage the various requests and ideas that you get while in the position. At times it can all seem very overwhelming and thus having a clear direction keeps things on track.
Creating a plan for communicating and storing information in a format that allows you to track progress in your role is also important. Typically, athlete representative roles require the person to be a recently retired athlete or active athlete and this means that they are likely not yet well established. I have noticed that many of my fellow board members are more established than me. Many of them either work for themselves or are employees of NSOs or MSOs and have children who are grown up and out of the house. Current, including recently retired athletes, are the best fit for the role of AR, however in order to fulfill that role this person needs to have a certain degree of support around them.
Connecting with current AR before deciding to throw your hat in the ring and asking the person about all the challenges she or he faced is wise. Getting the lay of the land from someone who has been in a position that you are considering will give you a chance to fully appreciate how and why you are or are not a good fit for the role. Remember, the reason you’re likely attracted to the position in the first place is because you’re interested in affecting change. In order to affect change you need assess your personal capacity as well as ways you can develop it.
The other way of looking at it if you’re extremely passionate about it is to dive right in and be the change you wish to see. Create ways to get the support of your workplace, find extra family support for your partner when you need to be out of town, and leverage the opportunities you gain through your role to keep you self-fulfilled and excited about the possibilities. That’s what I have tried to do.
Athlete Representation and Leadership Skills