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Lizanne Murphy’s Journey From Olympic Athlete To The Program Manager At The Canadian Olympic Committee

Lizanne Murphy | Program Manager of National Sport Organization Services | Canadian Olympic Committee

I am really proud to work for the Canadian Olympic Committee and I believe I bring a unique point of view as one of 10 Olympians who work at the COC.

Lizanne Murphy

Program Manager of National Sport Organization Services

Canadian Olympic Committee

× The interview with Lizanne Murphy 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 Program Manager of National Sport Organization Services for the Canadian Olympic Committee. What does a typical day look like for you?

In National Sport Organization (NSO) Services, I am part of the System Excellence team where we support Canadian Sport Organizations and Athletes year-round and we support the Chief Executive Officers and Executive Directors of the 55 member organizations of the Canadian Olympic Committee.

The COC will have invested $15M in our member National Sport Organizations by the end of this year in a program called the NSF Enhancement Initiative, which began in 2013.

This includes any projects, programs and initiatives to improve the NSOs business functioning, governance, revenue generating opportunities, leadership, gender equity and alignment within the Canadian Sport System.

I manage the programs in this space as well as shared services we offer to support economies of scale in the system. Each day is quite different

With a successful career as a professional basketball player, what drove you towards your role as the Program Manager of National Sport Organization Services for the Canadian Olympic Committee?

After retiring from sport, and living abroad for 15 years for my University studies in the US and then a professional basketball career in Europe, I was eager to return to Canada but wasn’t entirely sure what direction I wanted to take.

I had studied microbiology and biochemistry and considered returning to that field but was unsure I wanted to completely leave sport as it had been an integral part of my life for so long.

At the same time, I was part of the RBC Olympians program where we supported the organization of community events and I spoke at over 100 schools, communities and businesses across Quebec.

Aligned with that, I took advantage of the Canadian Olympic Committee’s Game Plan program which supports athletes in their career transitions (among many other things) and it was through all of these things, that I learned about the COC following one of my speaking engagements.

I decided to apply for a job, and within about a month, I was hired and then on the plane to PyeongChang to support Team Canada at the Winter Olympic Games.

I was, and still am, grateful to be able to understand all the efforts that go on behind the scene to allow athletes and coaches to represent Canada both at home and worldwide and to go after their greatest dreams.

It feels like I have come full circle to be able to repay all that was done for me over my 12-year career with Team Canada women’s basketball.

Sport represents so many great things in life, whether it be on the playground, or on the way to the podium and I am inspired to be a small part of this system. 

I noticed you played for Canada women's national basketball team and competed in in the 2012 Summer Olympics and 2016 Summer Olympics. With that experience, what does it mean to you to work for the Canadian Olympic Committee on the business side now?

I am really proud to work for the Canadian Olympic Committee and I believe I bring a unique point of view as one of 10 Olympians who work at the COC.

I understand what is happening on the field of play and bring that perspective to any initiatives or planning that we do.

Having experienced the resurgence and growth of women’s basketball during my career (we went from being ranked 23rd in the world to 5th, and the women are now ranked 4th in the world), I saw what a difference additional funding can make.

We went from an NSO that had very little funding, to one that received substantial support, so I understand what many of our NSO members are experiencing and the challenges they face. I think that experience makes me well suited for my role and that I bring value to the organization.

What would you say is the right attitude to be successful working for the Canadian Olympic Committee?

You definitely have to be a great team player. We have 5 core values as an organization:

  • Be excellent
  • Be accountable
  • Be respectful
  • Be fun
  • Be brave

We all commit to bringing these to Team Canada every day.

By nature, being Olympic means striving to be the best every single day, in everything you do, and I believe my colleagues and I really try and live that.

So for anyone who wants to join the COC, it is an awesome place to work!

I’d love to ask you to provide our audience with a little career advice. Based on your own experience, how does an aspiring sport professional find a job that’s right for them?

Through the Game Plan program, I was given this advice which I believe rings true to us all:

  1. Try different things and identify what you like, and what doesn’t feel right. We always want to plan, but until we jump into a job, career, sport, etc we won’t know if it is right or not. It is ok to try a few things out because identifying what doesn’t align with your values is equally important as we figure out what does.
  2. Do your homework and be ready to learn skills outside of your working hours. The Canadian Sport System is intricate with many moving parts, learning how they all work together will help you understand where you fit in. Additionally, more than half of the NSOs in Canada have 4 staff or less, which means you must be agile, adaptable and wear many hats at different times. The more skills you learn, the better your tool kit will be and will increase the value you bring to the table.
  3. Build relationships: This can be carried across many aspects of our lives, but really taking the time to connect with your peers and new people that you meet will help you grow as a person and also in your career.

Emma Greer Emma's Final Thoughts

Lizanne Murphy, Program Manager of National Sport Organization Services for the Canadian Olympic Committee, has an extensive background with the Olympics. She is one of 10 COC employees to have both competed for and worked for the Canadian Olympics. She brings a unique perspective to the COC as she is able to see everything from a business and an athlete’s view. Being an athlete also helps develop strong time management, social skills and are often known for being coachable and determined! Lizanne loves working with the COC because everyone brings some fun to the table. Loving where you work is definitely a win-win for both the employees and the employers. Lizanne has a great record as an athlete and is a passionate business person who strives for her best every single day.

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