Canada Games Teaching Spotlight: Laura Cousens connects students with diverse volunteer roles

NOTE: This is the latest in a series of question-and-answer stories featuring faculty members who are integrating the Niagara 2022 Canada Games into the courses they teach at Brock University or the research they’re leading. For more information on Brock’s academic activities around the Games, visit brocku.ca/canada-games

Associate Professor of Sport Management Laura Cousens has been providing students with the chance to gain experiential learning opportunities at major games (Pan Am Games, North American Indigenous Games, Ontario Seniors Games, Ontario Winter Games and Masters Indigenous Games) for more than a decade. In that time, more than 400 students have taken on various roles at multi-sport events including press operations, venue leads, social media, field of play supervisors and more.

Cousens sees the Niagara 2022 Canada Games as a chance to expand the diversity of volunteer opportunities available for students and to volunteer with Canada Games staff to provide unique pre-game planning opportunities in the areas of spectator engagement and social media.

What is your Canada Games-related course title, code and description?

  • SPMA 3V92 — 2021-2022: Canada Games Spectator Engagement
    This course provides opportunities for students to assist in facilitation and promotion of positive engagement and experience with the 2022 Canada Summer Games in the Niagara community through special events and unique initiatives.
  • SPMA 4P98 — Major Games Field Course
    This course allows students to observe and analyze operations of a major sport event. Topics may include marketing, human resources, sponsorship, finance, venue management and strategic alliances.

Describe how you’ve integrated Canada Games-related material into your course? 

SPMA 3V92 is a new addition to the curriculum that enables students to actively engage in planning in advance of the Games and then deliver their plans as they volunteer at the Games. This unique course will enable 80 students to design every element of the spectators’ experiences for each sport, ensuring plenty of entertainment and excitement for fans.

The SPMA 4P98 course has also evolved this year to meet the needs of Canada Games staff while providing highly specialized experiences for students before and during the Games. Students can choose to volunteer at the Athletes Village and Polyclinic, or to join the “Social (media) Squad” where they will develop the strategic plans for social media at the Games and then capture live content to share with Canadians. Students will also have the opportunity to volunteer in Media Relations. In addition to these specialized roles, students may volunteer in their choice of other experiences during the Games. Whether students volunteer in protocol, merchandising, ceremonies, partnership activation and volunteer services, among others, they’ll be leveraging their cumulative knowledge in Sport Management to learn new skills and enhance their resumé.

How do the two courses differ?

SPMA 3V92 is designed to enable students to be involved in every facet of planning for spectator engagement in advance of the Games and then delivering their plans while volunteering at the Games. This distinctive experience is co-delivered with the full-time staff member in the Spectator Engagement Lead position for the 2022 Canada Games. Students earn two .5 credits while planning the spectator experience for one sport in the Winter Term, and then take the 4P98 course to generate excitement among fans by delivering their plans at the Games.

The SPMA 4P98 course is open to all students at Brock. Students must submit an application in advance if their learning objective is to volunteer at the Athletes Village and Polyclinic, Media Relations or the “Social (media) Squad.” Students in these specialized roles begin training with Canada Games staff in the Winter Term and then volunteer at the Games in the Summer Term. All students at Brock are encouraged to select a role on the 2022 Canada Games volunteer portal and participate in generalized pre-Games training in the Winter Term to ready them for the experience of a lifetime as they volunteer at the Games.

For students interested in taking these additional courses, how and when would they apply?  

Students may apply for SPMA 3V92 online during Brock’s registration period; however, an application form must be submitted to Cousens via email to receive an override to be admitted to the course. The application will be available online later this spring, but interested participants are encouraged to email Cousens immediately.

Similarly, students keen to receive the specialized learning and planning experiences in Media Relations, the Athletes Village and Polyclinic, and the “Social Squad” offered in SPMA 4P98, need to email Cousens to complete an application form. Applications for these unique opportunities will be accepted beginning in July 2021. The application forms will be reviewed by Canada Games staff, with the most qualified students granted an override to take the course.

Students applying for 2022 Canada Games roles via the host’s volunteer portal may also register for SPMA 4P98 online during Brock’s registration period.

Why do you think the Canada Games presents such a good opportunity for students at Brock?

History tells us that volunteering at multi-sport games through the SPMA 4P98 – Major Games Field Course is a stepping stone to a career in major games. Students have used their skills and knowledge learned in this course to successfully compete for positions at the Pan Am Games, the Commonwealth Games and the Olympic Games, among other major sporting events.

The chance to volunteer at this nation-building event, the largest multi-sport event hosted in cities across Canada in summer and winter, is literally in our backyard. While students will gain role-specific skills, the Games are a celebration of sport, art, culture and community. Being there – as Niagara makes history and builds memories as it welcomes athletes, coaches, officials and spectators from across our country – is an experience that can’t be replicated.

The diversity of the experiential learning opportunities that have been created in collaboration with Canada Games staff offers students an array of skill-building.

Do you have any suggestions for ways your colleagues can use the Games as a way to enhance teaching and learning opportunities in their courses?

Collaborating with members of the Host Committee for the Games is one way to create opportunities to extend the range and depth of experiential learning opportunities for students in classes prior to and during the Games. I highly suggest reaching out to members of the Host Committee if faculty wish to include Games-related assignments (or create a course offering) that is linked to the Games.

Once the Games are finished, how do you plan to continue using this new idea in your course?

Niagara is emerging as a superior sport tourism destination given the range of sport facilities and exceptional tourism accommodations and attractions that are located here. As sport organizations and regions bid for events, partnerships with the host organizations may be established to ensure Brock students benefit from the range of experiential opportunities available. Partnering with the Host Committee of the 2022 Canada Games to enhance the SPMA 4P98 course and create the 3V92 course provides a template that may be used when collaborating with future event hosts.

To learn more about either of the courses, email Cousens at laura.cousens@brocku.ca


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