As she leads Canada Artistic Swimming’s (CAS) extensive culture change program, Lindsay Duncan, Chair of the Rise Up Management Committee (RUMC) says “We know that culture change takes time. Though we can see some encouraging progress, we know there is a lot of work still to do.”

With that understanding, CAS has set out a five-year plan to build a more safe and welcoming sport for all participants with both short and long-term goals and actions identified at all levels. CAS has already begun working with many leading Canadian consultants in their respective fields to create diverse and inclusive environments, supported by best practices and continuous education for all.

Organizational Activities

The third quarter report outlining CAS’ work over the past four months, was recently released. The Q3 report outlines progress made on several key projects from the action plan. First was a ‘culture audit’ conducted with the participation of National Team athletes, staff, service providers and coaches, who responded to over 100 questions around various aspects of the national training centre environment. The final report will quantify what aspects of the team culture were highly effective and what needs to be developed to contribute to positive team environment.

Working with the Montreal-based consulting company re-Root, CAS has begun to develop a pool of coaching leaders who can be a resource for other coaches. Up to 20 coaches from both national and provincial high performance levels will work with re-Root to implement coaching environments that support athlete autonomy and self-determination. As described by re-Root, these settings feature a new language that promotes high quality motivation, well-being and optimal functioning in athletes and employees, where humans ‘bloom’. The first training session has already been held in conjunction with CAS’ Technical and Leadership Conference in September, which focused extensively on Rise Up initiatives. There will be six more sessions held over an 18-month period.

Work has also begun with INclusion INcorporated, a Vancouver-based consulting firm focused on supporting leaders to be successful in creating safe, welcoming and inclusive environments where people feel that they belong. ININ, in partnership with Bingo Impact Management, are helping CAS develop a ‘belonging metric’ – survey that asks stakeholders about their feelings of acceptance and comfort within various areas of the organization. Close to 50 provincial, national and volunteer leaders took part in a pilot version of the survey. Their results will help refine the survey further, to ensure it provides valid, reliable data before the next phase. Next steps will include adjusting the survey for athlete inclusion, and then launching the revised ‘belonging metric’ to the much larger CAS stakeholder community. This will be rolled out over the next three months.

INclusion INcorporated is developing an e-learning module, focused on building diversity and inclusion across all aquatic sports. CAS is partnering with the other national aquatics organizations on this project, which will be housed on the CAC learning platform. Grants from FINA’s Olympic Aquatic Support Programme (OASP) and the COC NSF enhancement return to sport program are assisting with the financing of its creation. Work has begun on the content development, with the complete module being available in the new year.

The independent reporting mechanism, ALIAS, has a rollout target of December 2021. This bilingual service offers a phone line and a 24/7 secure online platform to collect the safe sport related concerns and all other feedback from CAS registrants. The ‘Make a report/Porte Plainte’ online reporting tool is almost complete and will be implemented at the same time as the CAS Safe and Welcoming Sport policy suite, currently being revised with the help of LBB Consultants, is released.

Athletes and National Team Activities

Based on feedback received through the culture audit, the national team selection and training process puts more emphasis on the importance of mental health and well-being as a component of overall fitness. New methods are being implemented to help identify and reinforce areas of psychological health focus for athletes entering the daily training environment, so individual athlete plans can be developed. This fall, CAS also delivered a return to sport development and audition camp series with four stops across the country. Key messages about high performance culture were built into the sessions. A confidential survey to build an understanding about athlete perceptions around environment and safety has been included for athletes participating in those camps. A new onboarding process for senior full-time training group members has been implemented to assist athletes with planning education, housing and adapting to life in Montreal, and to ease the transition to a new training environment, particularly for athletes without immediate family support in the city.

To help determine how CAS can best address the challenges faced by athletes moving from clubs to the senior centralized daily training environment, CAS is working with Elizabeth (Biz) Price in a project called Rise Together – Paris 2024. An accomplished artistic swimming coach and administrator, Biz is gathering input and insight from top club coaches who have graduated athletes to the senior team in the past four years. The goal is to develop a series of recommendations to help athletes be better prepared for the progression from club to national team.

Chair Lindsay Duncan thanks all artistic swimming community members for their continued support of Rise Up. She welcomes anyone with input, feedback and resource support as CAS “continues to work hard to achieve its objectives in inclusion and diversity” to contact the RUMC via email [email protected].