Special Olympics British Columbia British Columbia

Canadian Athlete Leadership Council launched

14 December 2017

After several years of planning and preparations, the new Canadian Athlete Leadership Council has been launched with terrific participation from athlete leaders from across the country, including Special Olympics BC – Comox Valley athlete Jake Hooper.

Hooper, who has completed SOBC Athlete Speakers Bureau and Governance programs, participated in a national working group to help develop the council and its terms, and he will serve a two-year term. Special Olympics Alberta athlete Katie Saunders, the Athlete Representative on the Special Olympics Canada Board of Directors, will serve as Chair. Hooper and the council members gathered in Toronto on December 2 and 3 for their inaugural meeting.

“It felt great, being able for us to have a voice that big for Special Olympics Canada. I think it’s a great step, and Katie did a great job with it," Hooper said. “Everyone brought up really good points and had really good debates. Overall, the council was great.”

Topics covered by the council members in their first meeting included athlete perspectives on program quality standards, and how to gather responses from athletes all over Canada on the upcoming Special Olympics International athlete satisfaction survey. Hooper was a thoughtful and eloquent representative for B.C.

“One of the things I mentioned which I feel contributes to the quality of the program as a whole, and of Special Olympics as a whole, is inclusion – how open we are to all skill levels,” Hooper said. “If you look at high school teams, they’re all super good athletes and people with intellectual disabilities couldn’t keep up as well with them, and they might feel shy about it if they can’t keep up, why would they want to be on that team? But with Special Olympics, everybody’s welcome, all skill levels are welcome.”

Hooper said he also feels positively about the Special Olympics International athlete survey, and he has an action plan to contact athletes throughout B.C. through their Locals, with an aim of getting at least two responses from every SOBC Local.

“I think it’s really good because it’ll help us get more voice from the athletes, which in turn will help us shape our programs to benefit the athletes better,” Hooper said.

The national council is currently comprised of 10 athletes from 10 different provinces and territories. The inaugural meeting was also attended by Special Olympics Canada staff Blair McIntosh, Tom Davies, and Rachel Borer, as well as Executive Directors Charity Sheehan of Special Olympics Prince Edward Island and Serge Michaud of Special Olympics Yukon.

To Hooper, the national council is “a way for athletes as a whole to put in their voice to the different things that happen with Special Olympics. During a competition, who better to ask how it went than the athletes? Or during their local sport events or their practices?”

Three members, including Hooper, put their names forward for consideration for the Special Olympics North America Athlete Leadership Council.

“I think this is a great first step and it’ll be interesting to see how it takes off from here,” Hooper said.

SOBC athletes who would like to participate in the international satisfaction survey, or share opinions with Hooper, are welcome to email jakehoopersobc@gmail.com.

Learn more about SOBC Athlete Leadership programs

Read about this year's SOBC Athlete Leadership Conference

The Special Olympics Canada Athlete Leadership Council members at their inaugural meeting.

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