July 23, 2006

Who's Driving on the Road To Excellence?

I've got my hands on a copy of the Road to Excellence Business Plan, released by the COC in April of this year. From a quick skim I can see that the document has lots of interesting stuff in it, and I'm looking forward to diving into it in more detail.

The report was authored by Dr. Roger Jackson, who was hired in 2005 to lead the COC's summer sport excellence program. At the time, I wondered if Jackson was too much an insider — too much part of the "old boys" network — to drive the kind of changes that would be needed to effect improvement in the Canadian sport system. One anonymous commenter chimed in that Jackson was a "blue blazer old school amateur chariots of fire type."

It turns out that in January of this year, Jackson was hired as the CEO of the Own the Podium 2010 "high performance unit," which was established to lead and manage the winter sport excellence program (I've written aboout Own the Podium most recently here).

The Road to Excellence stresses the importance of "incorporating the summmer sports into the same high performance leadership structure as is now in place for the winter sports." In other words, Own the Podium 2010 will become something called Podium, which will ultimately lead and manage all high performance sport programs in Canada — summer and winter. I'm not exactly sure where Jackson himself would fit into that plan; whether he would become the CEO of Podium, remain as a sort of vice-president on the winter side, or move over to the summer side.

About a month ago, George Gross had an article in the Toronto Sun speculating about the person that might be called upon to lead the planned improvement in summer sports. Now the fact that George Gross had Alex Baumann's name in mind may or may not mean anything. Gross certainly has the ear of the highest powers in the COC, so he may have Baumann's name from a reliable source. On the other hand, he's very careful not to say that in the article, and Baumann's name naturally pops up almost any time there's an opening in high-performance sport.

From the tone of the article, and from what's not being said, I'd guess that Baumann is at least on the short list. And if I can continue continue my quick and shallow analysis, he'd fit the requirements very well. He's young (42), and his still-remembered successes as an athlete would bring instant credibility. He's spent the past decade working his way up through the Australian sports system — so he's experienced and an outsider. That's a combination that's not easy to find.

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