Progression with Purpose: Squash Canada and Partners Share, Build and Learn During 2017 AGM


Each year, Squash Canada holds its Annual General Meeting and conference style sessions, bookmarking the end of another squash season across the country. Over the course of 2 ½ days over 30 representatives from all twelve Provincial and Territorial Squash Associations, National Team representatives, Squash Canada Board members and staff, joined together to share and learn towards building a brighter, stronger squash future together. 

The 2016-17 squash season was the first full season under Squash Canada’s 2016-2021 Strategic Plan and a year spent taking the first steps in delivering on the organization’s directional goals.  The AGM weekend serves as an annual review of the successful past year and serves as a platform for progress, an opportunity to move forward with purpose as we look to the next season and beyond.

As the leaders of the squash community arrived in Ottawa, Squash Canada’s Executive Director, Dan Wolfenden, staged a nation-wide staff meeting, where the staff of the national and provincial/territorial associations gathered together to share, discuss and collaborate on programs and ‘hot topics’ in the Canadian squash scene.  Most notably was the focus on squash’s National Coaching Certification Program and coaching development.  It was an exciting opportunity for sharing amongst leaders and partners, setting the stage for what was a productive and collaborative weekend.

The 2017 AGM conference then officially kicked off with two guest presenters as Lorraine Lafrenière, the Coaching Association of Canada’s CEO, presented members an information session on the Responsible Coaching Movement.  Following that, Krista Benoit of iSpark Consulting, treated members to an “insider’s view” of the upcoming and exciting plans for Squash Day in Canada, as Squash Canada celebrates squash’s inclusion in ParticipACTION’s 150 Play List.

On the first full day of the weekend, the membership engaged in a day full of sharing, learning and discussion on a wide-range of topics that are currently at the forefront of the Canadian squash scene.

To kick things off, Jeff Deverill (Chair of the Squash Canada Rankings Technical Committee), led the membership in a workshop discussing the technical regulations to govern Canadian rankings.  An important topic for everyone in the sport, plenty of discussions were had that will guide Squash Canada in managing the current rankings and the in support of the development of a new ranking system. 

Without skipping a beat, members moved into the next workshop where Cheryl McEvoy, Squash Canada’s Operation Manager and project technical advisor, John Van Schyndel took the members through a progress report on the work to-date on the unified Canadian rankings and membership system, a pledge supported at last year’s AGM.

Following that, members had the option to attend one of two concurrent sessions led by Squash Canada staff Jamie Hickox (Performance Director) and Britany Gordon (Programs Manager), where members were encouraged to discuss and provide feedback on possible inclusion of Under 11 events at national championships, and best practices for Provinces and Territories’ preparations for the 2019 Canada Winter Games. 

A working lunch included two presentations on new, innovative court designs to promote squash and participation.  Thanks to webinar technology, Yossi Fixman, Managing Director of TPOINT, presented all the way from Germany on their design innovation that takes squash to visible outdoor spaces.  From Dubai, Markos Kern, iSQUASH inventor, presented their interactive squash system.  Very cool innovations!

After lunch, guest presenter Steve Indig, Managing Director of the Sport Law & Strategy Group, led a workshop in understanding National - Provincial Jurisdictions – a thought provoking and open forum on where and how a collective partnership could and should align and collaborate.

Continuing with the information-packed schedule of sessions, participants spent the afternoon talking about a variety of topics from having a concussion policy and return to play protocol, what squash organizations should know about the federal government’s $5.2B Infrastructure program that encompasses recreation facilities, and on how to grow registered membership.  

Also, as part of the weekend, the annual Awards Celebration Evening took place on Friday night. This year's banquet celebrated those who helped make Canadian squash great, as the Awards of Achievement and the Awards of Appreciation were presented.

On Saturday morning, participants gathered around the table to talk about the Squash Canada Officiating Program, where members of Squash Canada’s Officiating Committee presented an overview of the updated program.  With a good deal of debate, the workshop concluded with a better understanding on where the program is going as we continue to build Canada’s officiating program to be one of the best in the world.  The program was later formally adopted during the formal AGM.

The final session before the Annual General Meeting was a powerful and empowering panel discussion about fostering female participation and leadership in squash where, facilitated by Director at Large, Sandra Thompson.  Three current female leaders in the sport shared their insights, challenges, learnings and victories. One such victory was highlighted by Janice Ladner, President of Squash Ontario, as she shed a spotlight on the Toronto and District Women’s Squash Association who saw a 125% increase in female participation in their summer teams’ league, in addition to incredible growth in other program areas.  The session left the membership eager to tap into that growth, creating a nation-wide environment that will encourage more females to get involved. 

The AGM itself featured a variety of reports and business items.  This included elections for two positions on the Squash Canada Board of Directors.  Congratulations and thank you to Shaun Thorson of Gatineau, QC on his re-election as VP Finance and to Steve Wren of Gatineau, QC who previously held the title of VP Technical which per the association’s new governance model, now transitions to a Director-At-Large role. Thorson and Wren will each serve a three-year term and rejoin the leadership team of Lolly Gillen (President) of Toronto, ON, Sandra Thompson (Director-At-Large) of Vancouver, BC, Kish Kapoor (Director-At-Large), of Winnipeg, MB and Andrew McDougall (Athlete Director) of Toronto, ON.

As members of the Canadian squash community left Ottawa, great takeaways for all, the momentum, and energy was clearly evident, boding well for action and progression.  Together, as Squash Canada progresses with Pride, Passion and Performance as their foundation, they do so with their partners and with purpose.