The Ontario Volleyball Association (OVA) and Volleyball Canada, with support of the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport (CAAWS) and the Ontario Trillium Foundation, ran a two-day Gender Equity, Inclusion and Female Development Summit for referees at the National Beach Training Facility at Downsview Park on Jan. 18th and 19th. The event, led by CAAWS Program Manager and Purple Dog Consulting President, Shelley Callaghan and Mental Performance Consultant and Canadian Certified Counsellor, Natascha Wesch saw 25 leader referees from Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec come together to discuss the gender landscape for referees in Canada and to formulate a vision on addressing equality for all.
The first day focused on gender equity, using the results of Volleyball Canada’s 2019 Officials Survey as a reference to build a strategic direction to improve the support of female referees. An assessment of current activities was highlighted and the process of identifying key issues, prioritizing goals and communicating common messages was developed, creating strategies that would better engage female and male referees while also retaining them.
“It was wonderful to meet with a group that is so committed to creating an inclusive, forward-thinking refereeing program for Volleyball in Canada,” said Callaghan. “It was great to have so many participants from different provinces and perspectives to discuss the issues impacting referees overall an, in particular, some of the unique challenges female referees face.”
Day two’s workshop revolved around mentorship with discussions of how each gender views and values it, the roles and responsibilities of a mentor versus a coach and developing a structure based on how genders learn and approach these roles. Dr. Wesch went into detail on the differences between what men and women want from a mentorship program and how both can be excellent mentors for either gender.
“Another big part of the day was understanding that regardless of your level of refereeing, that everyone should have the opportunity to have a referee coach and if they want, a mentor,” Callaghan added. “Keeping more referees in Level 1 should be as important as having referees advance to Level 4. All are needed to meet the demands of this growing sport.”
“The experience was simply awesome! Everyone was engaged, excited and looking forward in carrying that momentum back to their respective regions and provinces,” exclaimed Andrew Robb, the Ontario Regional Referee Chair. “It was really important to have many of the provinces represented in order to have a consistent approach Nationally, with our Mentoring and Coaching programs. The Gender Equity workshop was a huge success and I’m very thrilled to see these initiatives be put in place.”
From the summit, participants and provincial organizations will receive a framework with strategies to better recruit, develop and retain female officials as well as an officials mentorship program framework with specific strategies to better work with female and male mentors.
A special thank you to Callaghan and Wesch for an outstanding job of leading the workshops and providing significant teaching moments for everyone in attendance.