The criticism of the line-up of CEOs that preceded Yves Hamelin is lengthy, and varies by candidate. Such a track record is a hard one to overcome and makes the task of each new CEO progressively more difficult as the industry is wary of yet another vision requiring new protocols. In Hamelin, EC has secured a leader with deep experience in sport, having served as the high performance director for short track speed skating for eight years, during which time the team enjoyed 294 podium finishes at major games and eight Olympic medals.

Though he doesn’t have an equestrian background, Hamelin did come into this role with the advantage of having been contracted by EC in early 2019 to complete an organizational review. As part of that 6 months process, Hamelin interviewed the staff at EC about how the office functioned, what challenges they face, etc. giving him deep insights into what efficiencies are needed. He transitioned into the role as interim CEO last fall and is tasked with delivering the objectives outlined in the 2018-2022 Strategic Initiative which identified seven areas of interest each with several key objectives. Following is his plan to achieve some of the more high-profile issues.

Coaching Development

Goal: Increase the number of certified coaches and instructors who meet NCCP requirements.

Background: EC has 8-10,000 instructors and coaches of which just 1,600 meet NCCP requirements. Engaging this community and enhancing their skills is a primary tasks and objective. Coaches are the number one asset in sport development and high performance so enhancing their coaching skills at any given level of the athlete pathway become a fundamental asset.

The Plan: Last year, EC announced new coach licensing and certification requirements.

Licensing provides safety and ethics training as well as basic information about coaching experience. Licensing will only be mandatory at all EC-sanctioned competitions in 2021 and at PTSO-sanctioned events in 2022. The goal is having the entire training community licensed by 2025 so that EC can better assess what programs are required to support this community in the future.

Certification classifies coaches based on level and specialty. Training modules are being developed with most being complete within the year.

This framework was developed by EC consultant Douglas Duncan, who also has a background in speed skating, and who specializes in aligning athlete development, coaching education and competition with Long-Term Athlete Development. Split into two parts, Duncan’s contract was to first develop the structure of the coaching program and the second part, to be renewed April 1st, is to implement the program.

Athlete Development

Goal: Assessment and revision of the rider levels through a detailed evaluation process.

Background: The current English rider levels top out when riders are jumping a 1m course, but the provinces are mandated by government to establish a pathway that gets riders up to the 1.40m Young Riders level – a significant gap. At that level, EC is required by Sport Canada to assume responsibility for the athlete’s high performance development.

The Plan: EC’s board has a sub-committee, Canadian Equestrian Development (CED), which works with the provinces to develop these guidelines. CED’s priority is to establish an athlete pathway, curriculum, and evaluation, and will be engaging a working group this spring to work on their development.

Goal: Increase number of sport licenses by 5% in all disciplines.

Background: EC’s number of sport license holders has been steadily declining from a high of 18,944 in 2012 to 16,324 in 2018 (down almost 14%). As a key indicator of the health of equestrian sport, and one of EC’s main revenue drivers, EC needs to reverse this trend.

The Plan: Hamelin believes that the introduction of various new initiatives including the revised rider levels along with the improved coach licensing will increase the number of licenses by developing a strategy for new riders to find a positive experience. He notes, however, that this is a long-term plan that will be evidenced by slowing the pace of the decline before it flips and starts to increase in five years’ time.

High Performance Development

Goal: Gather data to identify High Performance athletes and assess needs to further their development. Also, develop a High Performance Strategy so Canada can maintain and increase world-class performance and results.

Background: Shockingly, Hamelin reports that EC has never completed quality long-term planning that reflects the four-year Olympic cycle. Such plans should include competition timelines, results milestones, athlete development, and more. The lack of such planning prevents athletes and administrators from forecasting requirements and developing strategies to plan for success.

The Plan: Hamelin has hired James Hood as EC’s High Performance Sport Director to gather data, assess athletes, and develop planning. Hood spent five years as the Senior Manager for High Performance Para Programs for Swimming Canada and his first task is to chart all the logistics involved with getting to and competing in Tokyo. Hood will use this experience and consult with discipline experts to identify any gaps to create and execute the first quadrennial high performance plan three years ahead of the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

Competition Development

Goal: Through the completion of a thorough national competition review, EC will identify and fill gaps to strengthen the competition pathway for athletes.

Background: Part and parcel of the athlete review is looking at how competitions are structured to make sure that they meet the needs of athletes.

The Plan: Duncan completed the competition review which resulted in a sophisticated and interactive database complete with as much data from nine years of competition as was available. The data can be filtered in a number of ways to provide comparative insights that EC can analyze to determine what needs to change or be improved.

One of the biggest issues that the analysis identified was inconsistent data reporting across the country. These gaps in competition reports and inconsistencies in data collection make it difficult to analyze. It was recommended that EC make an investment in software, hardware and training to have a more complete picture of how athletes interact with shows.

The second phase is to align and integrate competition structure with participants to design an optimal pathway. This work will start in a few months but could take a few years to properly develop.

Goal: EC will create and implement a national rankings program with national standings tabulation and national championships.

Background: The inability for the sport to accurately track national rankings has been an enormous frustration to many. Over the years, several hundred thousand dollars have been wasted on failed attempts.

The Plan: The gaps identified in the competition review are the same gaps that hamper the creation of this national database.

With respect to the Canadian Championships hosted at The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, Hamelin considers this to be more of a year-end event that only serves as a qualifier for the international leg of the Royal Horse Show, rather than a national championship. He would like to evaluate what the structure should be for a true geographic champion to help develop the next generation. While he said he would engage with The Royal, Hamelin noted that there could be conflicting business objectives. He does note, however, that the purpose isn’t to compromise the fundamental nature of the show, just how to better use it.

There are many other initiatives that are being worked on including improved service delivery to members (in testing and implemented in November), updated governance (later this year), national training facilities (to be launched in 2021), among others. So far, Hamelin has the support of the industry that is long overdue for a good and experienced sport leader.