The Sport Support Team: Helping Community Sport Organizations in Niagara
The COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on many aspects of life both locally and internationally. There were monumental political, technological, and social changes seen throughout the world. However, the critical problem affecting many small community sport organizations (CSO) was the economic burden imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the South Niagara Canoe Club (SNCC), the programs that fund their core operations were suspended, leaving the SNCC unable to generate revenue.
Recognizing the challenges that the SNCC and other community sport organizations faced, I decided to join the Sport Support Team (SST). During the pandemic, I realized the power sport has to unite people during challenging times. People wanted diversions and positivity when there seemed only to be unwelcome news. I still missed the ability that CSOs had to connect with others who share similar passions. Therefore, I joined the SST to create opportunities for others to similarly use sport as a mechanism to build positive social change at a community level.
In November of 2022, I joined the SNCC as a team manager. My role consisted of helping the organization ideate and promote its spring, summer and autumn programming for the 2022 calendar year. The planning aspect consisted of event creation and implantation on their website. I partook in helping to schedule and post the programs onto the website and then promote the programs through the club’s social media. Before joining the club, I had no experience with canoeing, kayaking or dragon boat. However, I do not believe that not having experience with unfamiliar sports should stop you from applying. With the SST’s help, I quickly learned many lessons about both the sport and the vision and values that the SNCC had. This knowledge lets me tailor my work to meet the expectations of the organizational stakeholders and have more impact within my role.
Below, I outline some of the main lessons that I took away from my experience helping a local sport organization following the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Little Help Goes a Long Way in Small Organizations
Most CSO members are volunteers. Any support that you provide to these organizations, no matter how small, goes a long way in helping them. Although I was volunteering only five hours a week, I quickly became an integral part of the organization. With the training provided by the SST, I approached each situation with professionalism and put an intentional focus on learning more about the culture and stakeholders of the SNCC. This resulted in significant trust and responsibility being put into me. For example, having an audience of over 30,000 thousand people on social media felt slightly daunting. Nevertheless, the experiences the SST provides will help us understand some of the roles and responsibilities that we will have in future internships and entry-level jobs within the sport industry.
Adjusting to the Ambiguity of the Professional Work Environment
One of the first lessons I learned after joining the SNCC was how different our academic careers are from a professional work environment. In high school and university, you often have a clear outline of the expectations for a project or exam and what steps you need to take to succeed. However, I quickly realized that in a professional setting, the tasks we are responsible for have a variety of ways to be achieved. Thus, it is vital to have a supportive environment focused on helping you acclimate. Through the SST training and the kindness of the SNCC members, I quickly adjusted to the unique working environment that nonprofits work within. With their support. By asking probing questions and learning organizational expectations, I soon became comfortable with ambiguity which played a large part in finding success within my role.
Developing Transferable Skills for the Sport Industry
Having an opportunity during our time at Brock University to gain experiential learning and utilize the theoretical knowledge we gain from our classes can feel incredibly rewarding. I built upon my education to develop transferrable skills that I can use in my personal and professional future. Below I outline three transferable skills I acquired while working for the South Niagara Canoe Club.
Given that the volunteer work was self-directed, you have the flexibility to choose when to begin and end tasks to meet obligations. In order to succeed, I needed to elevate my organizational skills. While I worked with volunteered for the SNCC and the SST, I managed many responsibilities. I was volunteering for the 2023 North American Indigenous Games, the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games and working on independent research study while having seven full-time classes at Brock University. Thus, the importance of managing my time efficiently was necessary to find personal success while also bringing value to the South Niagara Canoe Club.
In my role as the team manager of the South Niagara Canoe Club, the importance of planning and coordination were paramount to increasing summer program participation after the COVID-19 pandemic. To better plan the summer programs, I scheduled frequent meetings with the Commodore and other stakeholders, letting me better tailor the programs to a target audience and enhance the SNCC’s mission of becoming the go-to destination for paddle sport within the Niagara region. The tailored, carefully planned approach resulted in 73 registrations during the first three weeks of summer camp registration — an increase from only 14 the previous year. By increasing my coordination with others, I was able to gain the insights needed to succeed within my position and gain valuable skills for my future career goals.
Being part of a CSO also helped me understand and solve real problems local sport leaders face every week. For example, while I have been an avid social media consumer for countless years, I never really considered the differences between creating content for myself and for an organization. In my volunteer role, I had to think critically about the best ways to connect with my target audience while remaining authentic to the SNCC brand. One way to do this was to create new social media platforms for the SNCC to leverage, like LinkedIn and TikTok. It also meant expanding my social media platforms to include Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter. I had to analyze the different audiences and cultures of each platform and adapt my content creation strategy. Through these multidimensional problems, I challenged myself while building my analytical skills.
As a result of the Sport Support Team and the collaboration between the Centre for Sport Capacity and the South Niagara Canoe Club, I experienced an invaluable opportunity to build transferable skills and learn how CSO’s have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, this experience has been one of the most fruitful in preparing me to enter the sport industry after I graduate. I would recommend the SST to anyone looking to engage in community and nonprofit sport organizations in the future or anyone simply looking to give back to the community and further their personal and professional growth.
If you want to get involved with the Sport Support Team, visit the SST webpage
All Photos Courtesy of the South Niagara Canoe Club