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Directing Excellence For Canada’s Sport System Is Canadian Olympic Committee’s Marg McGregor

Marg McGregor | Director of Sport System Excellence | Canadian Olympic Comittee

I have had a blast having a career in the sport industry. There is never a dull moment.

Marg McGregor

Director of Sport System Excellence

Canadian Olympic Comittee

× The interview with Marg McGregor was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

Tell us about your role as the Director of Sport System at the Canadian Olympic Committee. What exactly does your position entail?

I lead the System Excellence team at the Canadian Olympic Committee. As the name of the department might suggest – we work to make the sport system excellent! We don’t focus on preparing the team for Games, rather we are dedicated to strengthening and improving the sport sector.

It’s a broad portfolio that includes areas such as diversity & inclusion, clean sport (anti-doping), safe sport (anti-harassment and abuse), Game Plan (total athlete wellness), National Sport Organization enhancement, and Olympic Solidarity. We also run the WELD program (Women Emerging Leadership Development). The work that we do is important in making the COC one of the leading national Olympic committees in the world.

Please tell us how your work has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Have you had to adapt to remote working? Please describe your experience.

These are extraordinary times – we are experiencing a once in a generation health crisis, financial crisis and social crisis all at the same time. It’s a lot and things will never go back to what we referred to as normal. These are challenging times for everyone.

That said – my team has pivoted seamlessly to working from home. We have become experts on zoom. We are tighter as a team than we were before because we are more intentional about communicating and connecting more frequently. We are leaning into each other more and looking after each other more intently. We always look for the silver lining. We recognize that we have a unique opportunity to use the crisis to bounce forward and rebuild a better more inclusive and safer sport sector.

You’ve held previous roles as the Executive Director of Canadian Rhythmic Gymnastics Federation, Water Ski Canada and Synchro Swim Canada. How did you adjust to working in such a wide array of sports? Did you have a favourite, or sport you enjoyed the most?

Each sport organization that I worked with had its unique challenges and learning opportunities. Each organization has a unique culture, so there is always a learning curve in the early days of any new job. The management and leadership skills I have are transferable from sport organization to sport organization.

While I was at Canadian Rhythmic Gymnastics Federation, it became an Olympic sport for the first time and Canadian Lori Fung won the gold medal at the 1984 Olympic Games, so that was a thrill to witness that accomplishment. While I was at Water Ski Canada I was fortunate to work with Wes Graham. He was the president and took me under his wing and mentored me. To this day I often think “What would Wes advise me to do….?”. When I was at CAAWS I learned a tremendous amount about inclusion and equity. At uSports I learned about conflict management. In other words, every position I have held has been an opportunity to learn and grow.

What surprised you the most about working a career in the sport industry?

It has never felt like a job for me. I have had a blast having a career in the sport industry! There is never a dull moment. I am always meeting new people and tackling different issues. I’ve gotten to travel the world! I have had the honour of serving as Chef de Mission for Team Canada at the 2006 Paralympic Games and the 2002 Commonwealth Games. I have attended six Olympic Games and it is always an honour to wear the maple leaf, and work in support of Team Canada.

Can you give some advice to people aspiring to work in the sport industry? Maybe something that you’ve picked up in your experience.

Build your networks! Build your skills and never stop learning!

I went back and did my MBA in my forties. During COVID-19 there are loads of free webinars – so make a point to register for some and skill up. Differentiate yourselves from others by your volunteer contributions. Languages open doors so think about taking courses to become bilingual if you aren’t already.

Don’t get discouraged by a few rejections. When you do get your foot in the door – do good work. Be mindful of how you show up to work. Solve problems rather than create them. Be a team player. Ask for feedback, and when someone gives you feedback – thank them (even if it stings a little) and take it to heart. Lead with values. Practice using inclusive language. Support others – if you are successful – send the elevator back down to bring others up.

Anastasiya Romanska Anastasiya's Final Thoughts

I can’t think of many careers as exciting as Marg McGregor’s. Working for the Canadian Olympic Committee really keeps her on her toes; meeting new people, solving new problems every day. With all of her responsibilities, she truly is a jack of all trades. Her commitment to doing “good work” and supporting Team Canada is really admirable. Although the recent pandemic has thrown a curveball, Marg has been able to use it as an opportunity to become closer and stronger with her team.

Connect With Marg McGregor