Janet McMahon can officially put her nameplate on the door, hang pictures on the walls, and get settled in the corner office on the fifth floor at 145 Pacific Ave.
After six months of holding the position on an interim basis, Sport Manitoba's president and CEO job is now McMahon's to keep. Earlier this week, the Sport Manitoba board of directors announced it had tabbed McMahon to lead the management team and oversee the organization’s planning, programming and funding for the development of amateur sport in the province.
McMahon didn't earn the gig just based on six months of work.
McMahon grew up in Brandon before she arrived in the Manitoba capital to play basketball for the University of Winnipeg Wesmen from 1979-83. After her days on the hardwood, she began to work for the Manitoba Games in the Westman region. From there, she moved on to the Province of Manitoba Sport Directorate, which eventually merged with the Manitoba Sports Federation to create Sport Manitoba in 1996. She's worked for the host societies for two major events — the 1999 Pan Am Games and the 2017 Canada Games — and has held several positions at Sport Manitoba, but was most recently the director of sport prior to the CEO opening. Outside of work, McMahon, who has two sons in their 20s named Connor and Erik with her husband Laurie, is on Corydon Community Centre’s executive team and is the club's basketball convenor.
McMahon is the second CEO in Sport Manitoba's history. Jeff Hnatiuk, who led the way for 24 years, moved on last year to join the province as deputy minister of Sport, Culture and Heritage.
McMahon took some time Thursday to chat with the Free Press about the new opportunity and what she thinks she can bring to the table.
The following is an edited transcript of the conversation:
FP: You've worked in sports administration for more than 30 years. Was making it to the top and becoming president and CEO a goal of yours?
JM: Well, to be honest, I don't think I ever aspired to be the CEO. I think I've always been happy in the role I've played here. So, I think it really was more of a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Of course, I'm excited about it and I'm grateful for the opportunity, but I have to be honest, I don't think I ever sat back and said 'Boy, I want to be CEO.' I honestly didn't think that Jeff would ever leave (laughs). He was a great mentor, a great colleague, and I enjoyed working for him. That never really entered into my thinking.
FP: This sounds like a job interview question, but what makes you the right person to lead Sport Manitoba into the future?
JM: I think in the time that we're in, the sport community and generally our society needs some stability. I think just having been working in this position for so many years and in so many different roles, it's not like I've been here doing the same thing, I've had so many different opportunities that I think I have a very good grasp of the sports community as well as the Sport Manitoba operations. So, I think I bring that understanding, that experience, and to some degree, some of the leadership that's required right now.
FP: It's a very short list, as you and Jeff Hnatiuk are the only people to have the job, but what does it mean to you to be Sport Manitoba's first female president and CEO?
JM: Well, I think it does suggest that within the sports world that there are opportunities and I think gender equity and those sorts of things are really important. I think more so for me, it would be the reaction I've had from the sports community, in particular, women, who are feeling really excited about having somebody in this position and potentially a role model. If I'm able to fulfill that, that's tremendously exciting. I think sometimes people feel like there isn't an opportunity for advancement so I think it's a really important step.
FP: What's the biggest challenge for Sport Manitoba coming out of the pandemic?
JM: It's going to be around our operations that are revenue-generating. We have a clinic, we have a fitness centre, we have a performance centre, and we really need people to get back into our building and using our facilities and our services. So, that's going to be a really huge piece because that's part of our operations in terms of how we continue to raise revenue and support all the activities.
FP: In the long term, what's your main priority?
JM: We have a real role to play in making sure sports are safe, welcoming, and inclusive. Those are things we hear a lot about, but sport needs to be better and offer more opportunities for more people and to meet their needs and expectations.
FP: What needs to be done in order for more elite-level athletes to come out of Manitoba?
JM: One of the few things we need to do is at a very critical age of teenagers, we need to keep them participating. We need to find a way to create balance in their lives. There's a lot of competition for their time. They have school and a lot of them work. The discipline and the hours that people put into train, somehow, we need to find a way to balance all of that. And I think what we need to also do is help people see their path to the next steps. Often if you're in Manitoba and you want to move on, people don't really know what opportunities are there or how they get to the next step. So, I think there's some real education in terms of letting athletes know what opportunities are out there for them and also how hard they're going to have to work and commit to getting there.
FP: Now that the vision for the Sport for Life Centre, which features a $23-million training centre that opened in 2017, has come to fruition, what's next?
JM: I think a lot of our focus for the last little while has been getting the facility up and running and getting that operational and sort of getting all the kinks out. I think now that we're there, our focus is turning to our partners, the community, and how we can help them. It's a shift in maybe what our priorities are in terms of what we need to look to in the future. We need to help our people who actually deliver programming and sport, finding more officials, finding more volunteers, and supporting what they do. I think it's more of us coming together as a full partner with our sport partners to support and encourage and promote what they need versus really being focused on Sport Manitoba.
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.