With every change, comes an opportunity for positive or constructive growth. You have full control to either accept the change or find something different but, in the end, it's ultimately your decision. It took me a while to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.
Senior Manager of High Performance Coaching
The interview with Josée Bourdon was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.
Before we begin, give us a little update on how your job has changed since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.
With the uncertainty surrounding the spread of the COVID-19 virus in early March, Skate Canada was informed on March 11th that the Government of Quebec had cancelled the ISU World Figure Skating Championships® 2020. The event was scheduled to take place at Centre Bell in Montreal. No doubt this heart-shattering news devastated athletes, coaches, officials, staff, volunteers, and fans, but in the end the right decision was made in the best interest of all involved as COVID-19 quickly started to creep up in Canada literally a week after Worlds were cancelled.
March 11th marked the beginning of my COVID-19 journey, one that provided me with an opportunity to evaluate and tweak work practices to best support my portfolio as Senior Manager of High Performance Coaching.
Like the rest of the world, I adjusted and adapted to suit the situation. I have risen to the challenge with flexibility, resilience and compassion, and will continue to do so for as long as I must.
Adjusting and balancing a professional and personal home environment 24/7 was indeed interesting at first but one that proved to be effective. Thankfully, Skate Canada had adopted the latest technological resources for staff to work from home and remain open for business – so that transition was seamless.
In the end, we all know this is temporary. Our lives… our organization… and sport, in general, will return to some normalcy soon. We will learn from this and unite stronger as a sporting community. Until then, I will continue to support the Skate Canada family as rinks from coast-to-coast-to-coast begin to open and our athletes and coaches return to skating and do what they truly love.
Tell us about your role as the Senior Manager of High Performance Coaching of the Skate Canada.
Although I am fortunate to have had a few positions at Skate Canada, I can honestly say that I have “landed” on the ideal portfolio, which was “self-made” from day 1.
My primary focus as Senior Manager of High Performance Coaching is to support the professional development needs of our NextGen and High-Performance coaches. Through various initiatives and programs, I work alongside some of the best leaders, mentors, and funding partners our sport has to offer. Together we create coach development opportunities for specifically targeted coaches. Each program is unique from start to finish.
As a visionary type professional, I have acquired skills in areas that allow me to build coach-driven professional development programs. While these initiatives have successfully supported the growth of current and aspiring elite coaches, these initiatives directly align with organizational goals in making “coach excellence” a priority.
The professional development opportunities and advisory support we offer to targeted NextGen and High-Performance coaches all share a common goal and outcome, that is to provide them with the necessary support to develop, train, and manage athletes from national through to the international stage. Most of my work is intended to deepen the pool of quality coaching system-wide and to assist those working with current and future high-performance athletes.
Aside from my main portfolio, I have been working on 4-year Coach Education Pathway with Brazil and was so fortunate to have had an opportunity to train 30-40 coaches from Brazil, Argentina, Peru, and Chile on two occasions. Working with such a passionate group of coaches and sports administrators has been personally rewarding for me.
What strikes me the most is that we all share the same passion and regardless of the lack of infrastructure and accessibility to quality ice/rinks in South America, I quickly realized that with determination, commitment, and hard work, people make do with what they have. Plans were underway for a third seminar in July 2020 but given the pandemic situation, I am currently supporting this project virtually.
I also did consultation work with the Swedish Figure Skating Association. Skate Canada went through a major transition from old to new NCCP programs from 2005-2010 and the main goal with Sweden was to share best practices and advise in areas that are crucial to consider when revamping a system. I had the opportunity to visit their main office in Stockholm, Sweden in March 2019.
Taking the necessary time to understand the sports culture, the needs of coaches, and its organizational structure is key when working with foreign countries. What works well in Canada does not mean it will work the same for another country. Understanding the roots of the same sport but in a different backyard was my approach to working with Brazil, Sweden, and now (in its beginning stage) South Africa.
Lastly, I sat on a development project group that created a Worldwide Coach Education framework for the International Skating Union (ISU). Along with my counterpart in the US, we created a 4-tier level system that will eventually offer coach training and evaluation initiatives to serve the needs of ISU Member Federations from all over the world. Its been an interesting experience, to say the least, and am currently leading the curriculum development for their Level 2 Coach program.
What does a typical day look like for you?
My typical day (including when I travel – work and pleasure) starts with some personal well-being time. I am an early riser so starting my day with a workout is something I (most of the time) look forward to and I find doing so fuels my energy tank for the workday ahead. I make every effort to “show up” with the best version of me for my family, friends, and work colleagues.
Although I am not the routine type, I do start my day with regular tasks – emails, phone calls, organize calendar, and set a target of what I want to achieve at the end of the day. Since most of my portfolio is project-specific, scheduling time in my calendar to tackle what is required on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis helps me adhere to and achieve timelines.
End your day on a high note is my best advice.
This will carry you through the weeks and months ahead. Easier said than done, right? Of course, but in the end, “Work hard, stay positive, and get up early. It’s the best part of the day.” – George Allen, Sr.
When was the point you realized that you were meant to do this career? Take us through that realization.
I fell in love with our sport at a very young age. When I was skater, I remember seeing Brian Orser, Tracy Wilson, and Elizabeth Manley achieve their ultimate best success at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games.
Fast forward to post-secondary education years, I studied criminology and worked in the field (part-time) for 4 years. I was also (at that time) a part-time figure skating coach with the Alexandria Figure Skating Club and head coach for the City of Ottawa Skating Program.
Then – an opportunity came up in November 1998 to work for the Canadian Figure Skating Association (now Skate Canada). It was an entry-level position in Member Services. I knew taking a “foot-in position” may lead to bigger and better things – thinking back now… I was right!
I worked as a Member Services Representative for two years before a new position as a Recreational Coaching Coordinator opened in the Coaching Department. From 2000-2017 my work mainly focused on coach education and led our coaching staff team through the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) transition from 2005-2010 – a career highlight for me.
During those early years, I quickly realized that I was going to be in it for the long haul – so career-wise, Skate Canada was and continues to be the right fit for me. Stepping out of my comfort zone, experiencing trials and errors, and challenging the “status quo” made me the leader I am today and created a career pathway that provided me with opportunities to grow towards achieving personal and professional accomplishments.
The biggest career fulfillment in my time at Skate Canada (to date) has been the professional work relationships I have created over the years. Some of the athletes who were once my skating idols (when I was a kid) are now successful high performance and/or World and Olympic level coaches – those who I support in the work I currently do.
I have seen several of our athletes who achieved podium success transition to coaching and some have achieved World and Olympic podium success with their athletes. Relationship building with coaches and all stakeholders is crucially important in the work that I do. Establishing and maintaining healthy work relationships is extremely valuable to me and the driving force behind keeping me motivated and engaged in the work done.
Growing up, I was the type of kid that could never settle on one sport – I wanted to try them all, both individual and team sports. Although I clocked many figure skating miles over the years, I did gymnastics, track and field, cross country running, and soccer growing up.
As an adult, I try to maintain my physical fitness a priority and to model this “way of life” for my 9-year old daughter who is a competitive gymnast.
I currently play ultimate frisbee and completed various triathlons with the most recent one being an Olympic distance race in 2017. Whether it be a career or personal accomplishment, my journey in sport is still evolving and who knows what it will look like ten years from now!
Would you say your path to your current position was quite easy or rather challenging, and can you discuss why?
I would say somewhere in between. I have seen various changes over the years, different leaders, etc. but for the most part, I would say its been a great journey and one I am continuously grateful for. Working in the field you are passionate about is fun. The desire to learn and excel comes much more voluntarily when you love the field you are employed in.
With every change, comes an opportunity for positive or constructive growth. You have full control to either accept the change or find something different but, in the end, it’s ultimately your decision. It took me a while to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your role and at Skate Canada?
Skate Canada is one of the biggest figure skating organization in the world, with over 183,000 registrants (skaters, officials, volunteers, etc.), 1,100 clubs and skating schools, 6,000 coaches, and 10 Sections (PSO), we have a lot to ensure that our programs are taught and delivered properly, that our events are planned and executed properly, that our coaches are trained and certified properly, and ultimately that are skaters (all levels) are trained properly so they can achieve their best.
It’s an elephant size puzzle with thousands and thousands of little pieces to assemble, so to answer this question truthfully, we work in unity with the Skate Canada family and work through challenges as a team.
What are some aspects of working in sport, that you’ve acquired through experience in the field?
Having a job that makes you confident, accountable, and well-rounded was and continues to be important for both my personal and professional growth. Doing something that you enjoy every day will bring out the best in you. Here are some of the main areas (in no order) that contributed immensely to the person I am today and the work I do, simply by accumulating field relevant experience.
Flexibility and creativity
Self-confidence and self-esteem
Organization and time management
“Chose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” – Confucius
What would you include on a list of your top 3 biggest accomplishments (or moments) between working in and playing sport?
Here are a few additional career highlights and accomplishments, in addition to the ones I have already mentioned:
2007 Canada Winter Games – Whitehorse, Yukon: I attended this event as a Sport Official. When a new judging system was introduced in 2005, I had the opportunity to exercise the role of a Data Input Operator and Video Replay Operator on the Technical Panel of officials. Canada Winter Games was such a unique experience and a moment I will cherish forever. Following this event, I continued my work on technical panels at various Skate Canada events, including those at National Skating Championships until 2016. This experience was very fulfilling as learned so much from working with some of the best officials in our sport.
2019 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships – Zagreb, Croatia: I was assigned to this event as an assistant team lead for the Canadian delegation and experienced areas I have never explored before. Being part of Team Canada in a supportive role to our athletes, coaches, and parents was invaluable. For me personally, observing the work of our coaches in the competitive environment at an international level was amazing. Our team work on-site was second to none and I would jump at this opportunity again in a heartbeat!
Coach Apprenticeship Programs: Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to work with some of the best coaches, officials, and sports scientists in our sport. In conjunction with Skate Canada national and international events we host, we use this ideal platform to educate our coaches by observing, discussing, and strategizing “in field” practices and performances. Each program I create with the assistance of world-class facilitators is unique and offered to selective coaches who have demonstrated their competency to grow as future leaders of our sport.
Hayley's Final Thoughts
Josée’s journey within the sports industry has been an incredible feat. When an opportunity came up with Skate Canada, Josée jumped right in and hasn’t looked back since! Her self-made career is something I believe we can all aspire to have. Josée fell in love with her job, became comfortable with the uncomfortable and climbed the ladder over the years to land on her ideal portfolio. When you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life and Josée’s career is a prime example of that. Josée’s work ethic is admirable; I know she’ll continue to provide Skate Canada with excellence!
A special thanks goes to Amanda Hope for co-coordinating this interview!