Supporting Canadian Athletes

Ed Drakich

Ed Drakich’s one year term as chair of AthletesCAN was an eventful one.

From hiring the organization’s first full-time staff member, setting up its first office at the University of Toronto (U of T) and establishing an AthletesCAN 1-800 number, to signing the original Athletes Connect contract with Bell and launching the Sport Solution, Ed’s term set the stage for some very important components of AthletesCAN.

A former member of both the national indoor and beach volleyball teams, Ed was born in Windsor, Ont. and grew up in Toronto. He was introduced to volleyball at an early age as his mother, a former member of the national indoor team, and his father, a coach and player, brought him to the beach courts in Toronto almost every weekend. Ed excelled at the sport and went on to play on the U of T volleyball team from 1981-1985 and was a member of the national indoor team from 1985 to 1988 before switching to the national beach team from 1989 to 1996. He competed in beach volleyball at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

“I went to the 1976 Olympics with my sister and my dad and it became a goal of mine to march in the opening ceremonies of an Olympics,” Ed said. “Twenty years later I did!”

When Ed first joined the national indoor team, they were coming off of a fourth place finish at the 1984 Olympics. The team was rewarded for their results by receiving B card funding, but because Ed wasn’t part of the team during that success, he received C card funding—something he felt was unfair.

Becoming a spokesperson on the issue and eventually working with the government to create a flat-carding system, Ed was asked to get involved with AthletesCAN after Ann Peel saw him speak about a flat-carding system at a meeting in Toronto in early 1995. He became treasurer of the organization in the fall that year and was elected chair, replacing Ann, in 1996.

As chair, Ed had a clear direction in mind for the organization. He felt AthletesCAN needed to shift its priorities from fighting the system (which he says was a necessary step to get the organization going) to acquiring assets and making corporate connections that can directly benefit AthleteCAN members.

“It was important to get tangible benefits for athletes so when they got on the national team they would know AthletesCAN existed,” he says. “Before, athletes would make a national team and have no idea they were a member of AthletesCAN. It needed to be ‘welcome to the national team. You are now a member of AthletesCAN and here are the benefits’.”

Corporate connections were also important to Ed because they would allow AthletesCAN to gain greater financial independence by creating a revenue stream outside of government funding.

“I thought we’d be better suited to have negotiations with government without them as our major funding source,” he says.

Throughout his athletic career, Ed has always been a leader on and off the court and feels it is important for athletes to understand if they want to better their experience, they need to get involved.

“When you first make the national team, the world is a great place,” he says. “Playing for Canada was all that I cared about, but after four or five years in the system, realism sets in and you start to see the injustices and inequities. We do ourselves a disservice by complaining rather than working towards finding a solution.”

As for AthletesCAN, Ed feels the organization is in a good spot.

“AthletesCAN has done their job,” he says. “People take athlete voices seriously.”

But he also says that it is important that the organization stay on top of issues to ensure it remains a strong voice in the Canadian sport system.

“People get athlete-centeredness but you have to stay on top of it,” he says. “We need to stay engaged because things can change at any minute.”

In the future, Ed would like to see AthletesCAN become an employment resource for athletes both while competing and in life after sport. He says entrepreneurial training is key.

“Athlete schedules don’t leave time for traditional “9 to 5” jobs so it is better to help them become entrepreneurs so they can work for themselves around their training and competition schedules,” he says.

Ed also hopes more athletes bring their passion for competition to other realms of the sport community by becoming coaches, officials and administrators.

Ed has a degree in chemical engineering from U of T and for several years worked as Volleyball Canada’s Technical Director. He recently returned to his alma mater and now is an athletic instructor and head coach of the U of T men’s volleyball team. Ed has also served as both Beach Volleyball Director and Technical Director for the Ontario Volleyball Association and as an FIVB Technical Supervisor for Beach Volleyball.

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