From Sport To Leadership - Kara Hagen
This is part 1 of a series featuring local women leaders sharing their experience with sport, and how the skills learned through sport and active recreation impact their professional roles and life.
Constable Kara Hagen, LPS
by Kara Hagen
Sports have been a huge part of my life since I was able to walk. I would try keeping up with my older brother and do whatever he was doing to keep active, cycling, snowmobiling, seasonal sports, or even dirt biking. Growing up, I was very fortunate to have parents who supported me in every sport I chose (and I mean EVERY sport). With the support of my parents shelling out for new shoes, hotels, meals, uniforms, etc., I participated in all the sports the school offered, but also league sports within my community. Only now as a parent, with my kids involved in sports, do I truly appreciate the efforts they made and their sacrifices to make sure I could participate and how their cheers in the stands were what I performed for!
Participating in multiple team sports, as well as individual sport has played a large role in shaping me into the person I am today. Time management skills, resiliency, the drive to always push harder, and the ability to fight mental and physical fatigue came from participating in sports. The balancing act of managing morning practices, lunchtime skills building, after school games, and weekend tournaments, all while balancing part-time jobs and still maintaining honour roll marks, helped form healthy behaviors and respectable life skills. Even at a young age, I knew I had a responsibility to more than just myself; I had coaches and teammates relying on me. The skills I learned while having fun with my friends meant little to me at the time, but when I look back I am grateful for the opportunities I was presented and the experiences gained.
I have always thrived in team environments and have always been blessed to be able to jump into new communities and be surrounded by like-minded people, often based on common sport/athletic interests. Now that I have "aged out" of the competitive sports I once loved, I have graduated to more mature sports like softball, hiking, mountain biking, snowboarding, fishing, and anything else the Rocky Mountains can throw my way. By participating in sport from a young age, it made sport my lifestyle, not just a hobby. Throughout my grade school years and into adulthood, I never looked at my gender as anything other than how I was born. Being a female has never caused me to miss out on sports or limit me from achieving my best; in fact, I never had considered being less of an athlete because I was female and hope to raise my daughter the same way. I have always and will continue to jump onto different sports teams, not because they need another “female player,” but because they need another player. I have always expected my coaches, teammates, and now co-workers to look at me as more than a “female on the team,” just as I look to them for all of their strengths and skills they bring along with their experience and ingenuity.
It was no surprise to anyone that knows me that I chose a career in policing, as it is team-oriented, deals with high-stress situations, and relies on teammate working together to be successful. The shared winning mindset has always been vital to the ever-changing policing environment, especially in today's world.
I have learned that leadership is demonstrated in many different ways. Being a leader is different for each person and is situational. Silent leaders on sports teams were noticeable alongside the captains who were vocal and encouraging. This taught me at a young age that just because someone is wearing the “C" on their jersey (or the Sergeant stripes on a police uniform) does not mean they are the best for every task the team faces; how leaders recognize this, helps define their leadership abilities. A good leader wants to be challenged by their subordinates and is not threatened that someone may possess a skill set they themselves do not have. Being challenged creates change and new opportunities. Recognizing the potential and the abilities of teammates/subordinates, and fostering them to become better is a trademark of a strong leader. I’m reminded of a story told by my dad: The Foreman of their power line crew was suiting up to do one of the dirtiest, wettest, and least desirable jobs; he was asked why he was suiting up for the task and not making a young guy do it. The Foreman replied, “how can I expect others to do the worst job every time if I don’t ever take a turn?” That is a natural leader and a positive example of great leadership that has always stuck with me.
With a decade of policing under my belt, I have been privileged to experience both what I perceive as strong and weak leaders. I have accepted and cherish that working for a variety of leadership styles is important in the growth of one's own personal leadership abilities. Furthermore, I have learned that even though it is sometimes difficult working for what I perceived as weaker leaders, the growth, ideas, and resilience that forms within that team is like no other. Leaders must always put their subordinate's best interests first and think about themselves last. Remember that being a leader does not simply mean you have to have the title, with leadership comes greater responsibility, not greater power. Leaders are the people that others seek out, and most often this not due to a rank or because of a designated “leader” position, but simply by the ability seen by your teammates.
I frequently joke that being involved in sports has kept me out of trouble, but truly it has done so much more. The confidence-building, sportsmanship, commitment, and of course the leadership and teamwork life skills gained from organized and individual sport are amazing traits to learn and become a part of your identity, all while having fun and being healthy and active. Some of the best leaders do not even consider themselves leaders at all.
The Lethbridge Sport Council extends a big THANK YOU to Kara for sharing her experience with us. We look forward to bringing you more stories from local female leaders in our community over the coming weeks.
Posted December 10, 2020