July Member Showcase: Dr. Laura Cousens


Our July Member Showcase is…Associate Professor in the Department of Sport Management at Brock University, Dr. Laura Cousens!

We learned more about Dr. Cousens’ research background, what she enjoys about teaching, some of her research projects, and some of her personal interests/hobbies.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background and what led you to specialize in your specific line of work? Can you tell us why you wanted to join the Centre for Sport Capacity and what you’ve gotten out of being part of the Centre so far?

When I first started, I looked at professional sport and I actually put the SPMA Pro Sport course on the books because I felt it was essential with so many of our students looking to get into pro sport to understand more than just the box scores. My thesis and my PhD were all done on pro sport but when Sport Canada introduced the Sport Canada Research Initiative Grant in 2007, to encourage professors to do research on sport participation, I submitted an application, and we were awarded a grant in the very first year. I had published some articles on network analysis in the past, so what we decided to do was use a network perspective to look at community sport organizations. One of the things I am most proud of is, we did a panel discussion for NAASM expecting no one to show up presenting this data, and the room was full with only standing-room space left for attendees. From here, we decided to do a special issue on community sport because there was clearly a lot of interest and we wanted to get the research out in the public. When I went on sabbatical, we began this special issue for the Journal of Sport Management and expected to get 20-25 submissions and received over 70. Only being able to include eight in the special issue, the rest were to be published in subsequent issues of the Journal of Sport Management. For a couple years, I really focused on getting all of this data out into the public, until the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver. When I attended, I heard there was 40-50 of our students in volunteer roles at the games, so I took some time to go out and visit them and thought that there are so many jobs in major games, there should be a course for it. So, I created the Major Games course for the Sport Management department. It is an experiential course where students are put in roles within major games and the one thing that I realized is that students do amazing work when they are put in these roles. I also teach the strategic alliances course, which is how I have tied in my networks research with my teaching. This was, at the time, one of the only courses in North America dealing with inter-organizational relationships and there was no publications in sport speaking to this. To ensure students had material within sport for this course I did another special issue for the International Journal of Sport Management on my next sabbatical. We still use these articles to this day, and they are fantastic for the students. A number of years ago now, I partnered with Right to Play to create the SPMA 3P93 Sport for Development course and as much as it is a lecture-based course, it really is experiential because the students are learning through play. In the Sport for Development field course, we have gone to Turks and Caicos and hope to go to the Barbados in the future to work on sport for development projects and provide a sustainable development commitment to the people there.

The Centre for Sport Capacity to me is an opportunity for professional collaboration and it provides opportunities for its members to undertake projects and consulting that benefit our research, teaching and the students without being under academia. The CSC also allows the opportunity to be entrepreneurial with applying for grants and cultivating partnerships. The Centre is absolutely vital to providing this avenue to professors to work on projects which can involve individuals from all across campus. The CSC is like a “think tank”, being able to bring different ideas together from many different perspectives and disciplines

Can you speak about a class (or classes) that you are teaching this semester/a class you taught previously/one that you will be teaching soon? What about this class/these classes excites you? Is this a new class that you are/will be teaching? Or a class that you’ve taught in the past?

I’ve taught virtually everything in the sport management department and the course that is the biggest eye opener for students has got to be Sport for Development. So many students that come into our program don’t think about it and they say it is a game changer for them and that they see sport through a lens that will really help people. For the students that want to work in pro sport, we look at a lot of pro sport foundations and how you can blend sport for development and pro sport together. These foundations invest in community sport programs which is very near and dear to my heart and is exactly what these trips to Turks and Caicos and Barbados are doing. If you ask me for a second one, it would be Major Games because it has impacted so many students lives.

Can you speak about any recent, current, or future research projects that you’re excited about? What inspired you to want to get involved in your topic of research? Was this research work partnered with a community partner in the sports industry or any other industry?

In COVID you’re able to participate in all these meeting with people all around the world, so when I was on a call with a lot of people, I put in the chat if anyone knew of any Sport for Development programs in the Caribbean. I heard back about this award-winning program in Barbados that was started by a professor who was also on the Barbados Olympic Committee. The issue we were dealing with in the Turks and Caicos was the high dropout rate and the UN did a study and found that only 60-70% of kids in school there graduate. So what were were doing was working with the schools to improve that statistic through the power of sport, workshops, and presentations to get the kids to stay in school. So this program in the Barbados sets kids up with an internship in their last year of school in something they are interested in, and this has resulted in a near 100% graduation rate. The idea is to get kids out of the classroom to motivate what could be out there for them and inform their worldview. They also learn organizational skills and marketing skills from planning sports events and that is how sport is used to teach some of these hard skills that are then used in their jobs. That is what my research is focused on right now, because this is a model that could be used all around the Caribbean. The idea is that publishing this research will expand the impact of that work going on down there.

What’s your favourite TV show right now?

Game of Thrones would be my pick right now.

What are your current hobbies/interests?

Competitive equestrian, play tennis, distance swimming, spending time with my two kids and my family.

What’s your favourite book?

Murder mystery novels and suspense crime, Jo Nesbo is one of my favourite authors. I also love biographies because digging into the life of someone is so fascinating.

What’s your favourite sport or sports team?

We are a Raptors family and have a Raptors den with flags, banners, sweaters, and it’s all “kidded out”. I also love the Olympics and being able to watch all these different sports like Rugby and so many others. My favourite sports to participate in are Riding, tennis, swimming.

Now’s your time to talk yourself up! You can talk about awards you’ve won, certifications you have, professional affiliations, personal achievements…anything your heart desires!

I would say that the two special issues I authored were very special to me because they were very impactful in our field of sport management and I was the first person to publish an article on networks in our discipline. I have also won some awards for volunteering outside of Brock. I won the Ontario Bronze medal for volunteering for work I did with the Kidney Foundation where we created an event that has probably raised over $250,000 now. I am very proud of that work as many professors are focused on their publications, but for me its all about can I make an impact on a student’s life. Creating new courses like Sport for Development, Pro Sport, and Major Games and taking kids overseas have been some of my best memories. For me it’s fabulous to see the students have these personal growth opportunities while also providing a sustainable development commitment to others.

Categories: Blog, Member Showcases