Leadership in our Canadian youth is pervasive and active. As a volunteer, I was witness and observer to an extraordinary 4-day conference hosted by the University of Ottawa (May 11-14). This year’s theme was “Making a Difference”. The delegates to this 2006 Ontario Olympic Youth Academy, were fifteen Ontario students representing their high schools. These students confirmed that our youth will bring a new order of leadership to this country, their province and their communities.
OOYA is sponsored by Sport Alliance of Ontario, OFSAA, and the Canadian Olympic Committee. The Ontario Olympic Youth Academy is held each year and serves 2 purposes:
1. To share the magic of The Olympic Games in a ‘hands on’ format by debating, discussing, discovering, meeting, networking, playing, laughing in an active & dynamic 4-day conference.
2. To meet Olympic athletes, coaches, organizers and managers and hear them speak about the impact The Olympic Games has had on their lives.
Working long hours, this group of engaging teenagers were involved in interactive presentations and group workshops. Through the team sports of Dragon Boat Racing and a modified Olympic Games event, the group showed their ability to focus as a unit and meet goals. The delegates developed Sports and Exercise programs that can easily and immediately be introduced in their respective schools and communities. Programs are like:
1. “Clean Play Starts with a Clean Place to Play”,
2. “Mini Olympic Days” to promote a healthy and active lifestyle to Grades 5 & 6, are designed for both athletes and non-athletes and help shape high school students into leaders.
Appearance by guest speakers included:
1. Sue Holloway, Honorary Chair of OOYA – Silver and Bronze Olympic Medalist for kayaking (1980-Los Angeles). Ms. Holloway is the first female to compete in both the Summer and Winter Olympics (1976 – kayaking and cross-country skiing).
2. Shaunna Burke – second Canadian female to reach the summit of Mount Everest (spring 2005).
3. Pierre Lafontaine, CEO Swimming Canada – recently, Head coach for Australian Institute of Sport, and before that the Phoenix Swim Club of Arizona. Mr. Lafontaine led 4 and 8 medal swimmers to Olympic victories in 2004 and 2000 respectively.
4. Marg McGregor – Chef de Mission 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England.
5. Greg Joy – Silver Medalist and world record for high jumping 1976 Montreal Olympics.
6. Marc Leger – 2005 Canadian delegate at the International Olympic Academy in Greece.
7. Dr. Gene Sutton, Chair OOYA and National Olympic Academy, Director of the COC Board, and Canada’s Chef de Mission for the 2003 Pan American Games team.
8. Michael Chambers – President Canadian Olympic Committee (COC).
These speakers had a profound impact on the delegates. The Academy ended on a high note with an emotional closing ceremony during which each delegate lit a candle from the 1988 Calgary Olympic Winter Games Torch!
However subtle, a key message was woven throughout the conference presentations by the Canadian Olympic athletes, Olympic coaches, and Sports executives. And that message: to have these future leaders consider sports management, sports coaching, and sports education as career options. This message was effectively introduced and appreciated by the delegates. Some delegates openly shared their renewed consideration for sports education/management as a career choice.
Currently, there are a number of active Provincial/Territorial (PTOAs) Olympic Youth Academy Programs:
1. Quebec Youth Olympic Academy
2. Ontario Olympic Youth Academy
3. Alberta Youth Olympic Symposium
4. BC Olympic & Paralympic Youth Leadership Academy
5. Nunavut Youth Olympic Academy
As a youth sport educational forum, the various Olympic Youth Academies, are an excellent way to introduce Canadian Youth to career and volunteer opportunities and rewards associated with national, provincial, community sports management/coaching, and sports education. The Olympic Youth Academies provide an expanded opportunity to share the Canadian Olympic Dream whether as an athlete, a coach, an organizer or a volunteer.
Expanding and funding the Olympic Youth Academy Programs to each and every Canadian Province and Territory has been an ongoing initiative of the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC). Each province should now embrace this youth leadership forum. It is a perfect program to parallel the COC initiative, Own the Podium 2010.