From Sport To Leadership - Tracy Wong
This is part 1 of a 3-part series featuring local educators sharing their experience with sport, and how the skills learned through sport and active recreation impact their professional roles and life.
by Tracy Wong
Memories from my childhood are becoming less detailed and vivid as I appreciatively walk down the path of life. I can remember overarching themes; joyous time spent with my amazing parents and awesome big sister. Watching movies and eating A LOT of great food together, but as time passes some of the details become fuzzy. The memories of my childhood that remain very clear are connected to sport and activity. I have vivid recollections of playing badminton with my dad in the backyard, riding my bike through North Lethbridge, and playing at all the parks near my home, in particular the park at Senator Buchanan Elementary School. I remember feeling deep pride growing up on the North side of Lethbridge, I was proud of where I went to school, and the activities that I was privileged to participate in. This sense of pride was nurtured through sport.
As a young person I loved sport with all my heart. My first introduction to sport was through soccer. Soccer was a sport my Dad played as a young boy in Malaysia, and he shared that passion with me, something I will forever be grateful for (among so many other things my Dad has shared with me). I played Chargers soccer and looking back I am thankful for the experience to play for a club that nurtured strong female athletes and encouraged hard work, discipline, and excellence.
My soccer experience led me to many sports opportunities, igniting a passion for pursuing physical challenges, goal setting, and a continued focus on growth. As I journeyed through school, playing sport was central to my identity. Wilson Junior High (now Wilson Middle School) provided me with opportunities to play volleyball, track and field, and badminton.
As I moved into high school at Winston Churchill, my commitment to volleyball only became stronger. These opportunities came to fruition because of the dedicated and caring adults that volunteered their time to give kids opportunities to build skills, self-esteem, a sense of purpose, and a deep understanding of the importance of work ethic and cooperation.
The time I spent as a student at Winston Churchill High School solidified my desire to pursue a career in teaching as a physical education teacher. The experiences I had as a student-athlete had a profound impact on my development as a human and I wanted to provide those same opportunities for kids just like me. I am grateful for the 10 years I spent coaching volleyball, it was through coaching I had the opportunity to meet and develop relationships with outstanding humans. I feel lucky to stay in touch with many of the athletes I coached, many of whom are involved in coaching and promoting youth sport today.
Although my participation in team sports halted after university, I developed a passion for running, biking, and strength training. I had the opportunity to represent Canada on the National Duathlon Team at two World Championships: in Switzerland and Belgium.
In my twenties marathon running and road cycling were my activities of choice. Those endurance sports no longer serve me, and I am now a deeply committed Peloton member and try to recruit as many friends as possible into this supportive and highly motivational fitness platform. I enjoy time on my bicycle and feel privileged to explore the land we live on, the beautiful traditional territory of the Blackfoot people. We are so fortunate to have the coulees and the river bottom as places to explore and enjoy. Physical activity remains central to my identity and my wellness. It has been a constant in my life and in my career.
I am privileged to currently work as principal at Winston Churchill High School. I am incredibly grateful for being able to return to the school that gave me so much and contributed to my development. I get to work with 930 awesome young people and 85 adults that demonstrate deep care for kids every day. We believe in providing kids opportunities to engage in sport, fine arts, and extra-curricular activities that enrich lives and support growth and learning.
When I reflect on how my experiences in sport shaped my development as a person and how those experiences continue to contribute to my role as a school leader, I am even more grateful for sport.
Leadership is complex. It involves developing an agreed-upon purpose that all members of the organization understand and believe in as the common why. This common purpose brings direction, unity, and motivation. Committing to and working for this common purpose creates community and offers a sense of stability. Everyone in the organization understands the filter used when making decisions and where the organization is going. The commitment to the common purpose, the why remains constant every day. On good days, and on not-so-good days.
As a school leader and teacher, I believe developing positive, meaningful relationships for the purpose of learning are essential. For me, relationships involve care, curiosity, reciprocity, and trust. These strong relationships create an environment where individuals thrive, take risks, are curious, feel supported, and continually pursue growth.
So how does this connect to my experiences in sport? As a member of a team, it was essential that I build relationships with my fellow teammates. The importance of working hard for your teammates, and supporting them through moments of frustration, disappointment, and joy was central to being a great teammate. As a team, it was essential that we work together, toward a common purpose. As an individual pursuing active recreation, I need to know my why. Knowing my why, and committing to a purpose motivates me to train on days when I am tired, and weary, or on days when I feel like I am not moving forward toward my goal. That sense of purpose creates drive, in sport and in an organization.
Sport also taught me that I can do hard things, and that I am built to do hard things. Participation in sport gave me the confidence to understand that hard work and commitment lead to growth. The ability to push your body physically and mentally, beyond limits that have been set for you allow you to see what you are capable of in all aspects of your life. This learning inspires you to ask, what is possible?
Participation in sport and activity teaches me every day that it is a privilege to move my body. Even on tough days. The idea that I get to participate, I get to train rather than I must, sets the foundation for how I view the world and my role in leadership. I see my professional work through this same lens. It is a privilege to be a teacher and principal. I get to work with students, staff, and families during great and during complex times.
Sport fundamentally shaped who I am and how I view the world. Participation in sport reinforced the importance of cooperation, collaboration, hard work, dedication, and knowing your why. As an athlete you aim to be better every day, your habit of mind is learning and growing. As a teacher and leader, my habit of mind remains oriented to learning and growing. Sport gave me confidence in my physical abilities, which directly translated to giving me the confidence to take risks in other areas of my life, and to push limits and expectations in the pursuit of an identified purpose.
The Lethbridge Sport Council extends a big THANK YOU to Tracy for sharing her experience with us. We look forward to bringing you more stories from local educators in our community.
To see all the Sport For Leadership stories, including Series 1 & 2, please check out the e-magazine below.
Posted January 9, 2023