Aaron Geisler is the Director of Sport at Football Canada, the governing body for amateur Canadian football. Football Canada has been on the rise for the past several years. Recently, I had the chance to have a conversation with Aaron about his various roles such as coach, player development and also an official with Football Canada. He provided great insight into what it takes to be in sport business, his day-to-day and also his accomplishments. Aaron Geisler also talks about his secondary passion: political science and government. Turns out, Aaron Geisler’s undergraduate degree it in that very subject. But he turned his undergrad into a Master’s in Kinesiology, which aligned perfectly with what’s made a career out of – working on the high performance side of amateur sport. It was super interesting to chat with Aaron about how politics and government continues to play a role in what he does with Football Canada. It was also intriguing to hear how one step in his career led to another and eventually landing him the role he’s currently in with Football Canada. Enjoy!
Please note: The interview Aaron Geisler 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 at Football Canada.
As the Director of Sport for Football Canada, my focus is on the development of all aspects of the game of football for all disciplines (tackle, touch, and flag). There are several areas of focus that are primary to my job; coach/official/player development, program development, high-performance teams and programming, safety, and general Long-Term Participant development. Much of my job revolves around working with our members and partners to find ways to develop our game to provide Canadians opportunities to participate in sport and football at all levels for all types of participants. Creating a positive and engaging experience while supporting our members is the primary focus of my role at Football Canada.
What does a typical day look like for you?
The best way I can answer this is there really is no typical day in my job which is what makes it so great. Some days I am in the office working on program development and educational content and the next day I am in meetings or conventions interacting within our sport or with other sports. There are even days where I am out on the field or at events seeing the programs and development in action. Working in sport provides such a variety in your workdays that no one day is the same and no one day is uneventful.
This isn’t to say that many of my days are not what one would expect from a typical office job answering emails, conference calls, membership issues and other generic office duties. The difference when working in sport or in most not-for-profit industries is even these general day to day activities have a profound impact on initiatives that will play a large role in participants across the country.
Is sport something you have always been interested in, and are there any career paths you would consider?
Sport has always played a really important part of my life. When I was younger even moving into high school and university, I initially didn’t look at sport as my first or even second choice for a career mostly because it was never readily apparent that there were so many opportunities.
“When I was really deciding on what I wanted to do from a career perspective, a mentor of mine told me to first decide what you love to do in life or are passionate about and then try to get paid to do it. I realized I loved to coach, and I loved the impact sport had on my life and young individuals in this country. That is when I knew I needed to find a way to contribute to that.”
The other career path I have always been intrigued to participate in is public service. I have always been highly intrigued by the political sphere and government in general. Working in sport allows you to get a great glimpse into that world through many interactions with Sport Canada and other partner organizations. In addition, I have a lot of opinions and from time to time, like to talk a lot which many of my colleagues can attest to.
What surprised you the most about start a career in the sport industry?
There were several things that surprised me when I began in the sport industry but the thing that’s surprised me most was how different working in sport was to my previous experience in the workforce. I spent the majority of my working life before working at Football Canada working in retail, which I suggest anyone takes the opportunity to do, but the stark difference in those two industries was the training you get once you get into the role that you are in.
The amount of on the job training you get while working in retail is immense from learning how to interact with customers on how to operate a point of sale system.
In sport, in my experience, a lot of it is learning the job and landscape as you go. There are not many training courses or e-learning on how to take on your first coordinator role in a sport organization whether for-profit or not-for-profit.
That means that you need to find and intently listen and learn from individuals with experience in your industry. For me that was my Executive Director. She was an amazing resource to guide me through the landscape and teach me how to work within a National Sport Organization and most importantly reel me in when I thought I knew what the right answer was. If you are entering into any sport organization be prepared to be flexible, roll with the punches and ask a million questions to help you find the mentor that can bring you along in the process.
What are 3 essential skills someone needs to succeed working with a non-profit sport organization such as Football Canada?
1 Relationship Building
3 Time Resource Management
What are your three biggest accomplishments that you have had in your career?
1 Football Canada’s Safe Contact and Long-Term Athlete Development Competition Review
2 Presenting at the Conference of Concussions presented by the Governor-General
3 JR National Team Gold Medal 2018 JR World Championships
Are there some aspects you wish could change about your life or has everything fallen into place perfectly?
I have always thought that any decision or approach I have taken in my life has provided me with the experience and knowledge that have gotten me to where I am now. I am very lucky and grateful to have had many amazing mentors from coaches to colleagues that have guided me through much of my career development good and bad. All of those experiences have provided me with the opportunities to do the work I love in the job I love.
This is not to say that there have not been decisions or approaches I look back on and think was that the best choice or do I wish it would have been different, but the reality is I would not want to be doing or be anywhere else than I am now. I have amazing colleagues who work day in and day out to create positive opportunities for Canadians