Preparing athletes to succeed in sport and life

Dale Henwood of the Canadian Sport Institute Calgary talks about the broad positive impact sport and athletes have on the community

Dale Henwood is president and CEO of the Canadian Sport Institute Calgary.

Dale Henwood
Dale Henwood

What is the Canadian Sport Institute Calgary and what does it do? 

Henwood: We provide sport science and medical support to enable and inspire life-changing performances. At the Canadian Sport Institute Calgary, we are a part of many journeys through high-performance sport. Journeys that leave several marks, from the one standing on an Olympic or Paralympic podium to a scar left after an injury.

But the mark we want to be known for is the legacy of the people we develop and the positive mark they leave in our community. We firmly believe that athletes that live a balanced life outside of sport perform better in sport. As such, we have endeavoured to offer programs and support to develop and prepare athletes to be medallists in their sport as well as being engaged, responsible, confident, self-reliant and contributing citizens. Growing them as people helps them grow as athletes. The public support and connection is better if we have good people representing our country.

We also offer expertise and provide solutions to elevate and impact performance. We prepare athletes to be able to manage and successfully experience the thrills, intensity and pressure of major competitions – and perform on demand.

What’s your mission? 

Henwood: Our mission is to develop the complete athlete. We care about the medal and are focused on moving athletes higher up the podium. But we’re also preparing athletes for life – making them better, more complete people. We develop people who push themselves to get better. Every. Single. Day.

People who take failure and learn from it. People who are an inspiration for tomorrow’s leaders. People who find a way to break barriers. People who demand true, clean and safe sport. People who know actions speak louder than words. These are the people we work to develop. This is why we exist. These are the people who will be the community, business and elected leaders of the future.

These athletes do, and will continue to, make a difference with our youth, in our community and in the business sector.

What does Canada have to do to be better at the international level when it comes to sport?

Henwood: Ensure better alignment of the Canadian sport system that’s focused on making athletes better. Every. Single. Day. We also must find ways to provide support for athletes who are deeper down the development pathway so they’re better prepared and better supported at a younger age.

We must strategically service the middle of the pathway (the formative years, most malleable athlete) and offer good basic access to health care, to generic athletic development through education in areas such as nutrition, mental performance, rest and recovery.

To achieve long-term success in life and business, we need to pay attention to both long-term and short-term goals. Sometimes we under perform in the short term to perform more consistently long term. We need patience and discipline and we need to understand the process and end goal.

Finally, the big challenge with the pursuit of excellence is that you’re never done. You never reach excellence as it’s an ever-escalating bar. We can always do better. There’s a balance between processes that have shown to be successful and being open to new ideas. We need to be able to think differently, to look at new and different ways to do what we do, to constantly ask ourselves: can we do better?

We’ve faced some tough times in Canada from an economic standpoint in recent years. What impact has that had in funding support to Canadian sport? 

Henwood: In the last four years, CSI Calgary’s public funding has decreased by about 20 per cent. More importantly, in Alberta, our population has increased by 40 per cent since 1992 and there has been no new net investment in the Alberta sport system since 1992.

Even though the funding numbers are not on our side, Albertans strongly believe sport contributes to quality of life. There were 13,440 sport jobs in Alberta in 2016 and sport GDP was worth $773.6 million. We need to make sure these numbers continue to grow because sport participation has a tremendous positive impact on health, social cohesions, skill development, the community and the economy.

What can business people and professionals learn from high-performance athletes? 

Henwood: High-performance athletes learn to develop a number of transferable life skills but some of the most relevant to business professionals are stress management, goal setting, problem solving, time management, being able to accept feedback, working with a team, being adaptable and resilient, and emotional intelligence.

© Calgary’s Business


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