Farewell from Scott Barrett

A Look Back and Looking Forward…by departing AOA Executive Director Scott Barrett

About 18 months ago I was asked to speak at the annual NAIOP Ski Day that, every year, raises money for Alpine Ontario. Similar to guests of the past, my charge was to provide the audience with inspirational words focusing on my years spent on the Canadian Alpine Ski Team (the real team) and what the sport of ski racing ultimately provided me. This event had historically heard from alumni such as Brian Stemmle, Larisa Yurkiw, and even the legendary Todd Brooker. I would describe these greats as your classic “poster athletes”. I realized I had a problem. I was never on the poster.

After the request came in, I would lay awake at night wondering what planet I would have to be on to get through a 30-minute speech in front of a few hundred individuals. Rather than pretending I was better than I was, I decided to embrace the raw truth. I would talk about my perceived failure while being a member of the National Ski Team. Quickly, I realized I would need a reprieve to get pen to paper! I jumped on a plane and flew to Cuba on a last minute 5-day honeymoon package to sit in the sun and pour over my emotional baggage and my inability to have gone from 40th in the world to the best… This was a first world problem and I was hell-bent on being able to articulate this catastrophe to the NAIOP onlookers!

In my ocean-front honeymoon suite (that caused a plethora of bewildered looks from neighbours on both sides of me) I wrote and wrote and then wrote some more. After arriving back to the crisp Ontario winter, upon the suggestion of my father, I began working with a presentation coach…. Poor guy, he had no idea therapy would become part of each coaching session. He was amazing as I stumbled through countless iterations of the speech. Slowly, the concept of actually being able to do this was taking shape. The day of the event, I was so nervous I contemplated faking I had whooping cough and escaping back to the comfortable Cuban lifestyle.

The speech was dubbed, “The 4 P’s: Failing on the National Ski Team”. I felt bad for the audience as I stammered through the 35-minute dissertation in which I walked them through my ski racing demise that I had come to understand, beneath the Cuban sun, could be boiled down to a simple 4P framework. At the pinnacle of my ski career, I lacked a goal-driven PLAN. I was no longer PASSIONATE about the sport. I did not surround myself with the right PEOPLE and thus my PERSISTENCE at the national level was absent. As my speech came to a close, and the final words left my lips, I was greeted with a generous ovation, followed by a most unexpected cathartic moment in which time virtually stood still and my perspective shifted. Suddenly, the disappointment and anguish I had been plagued with surrounding my athletic career were instead replaced with contentment and a deep appreciation for ski racing and the opportunities the sport had given me.

If you are still reading, I am impressed and thank you. After 6 years of being married to my job and getting up every morning delighted to have yet another chance to make ski racing better in Ontario, my 4P’s revelation undid the sense of urgency and passion I had over the years while leading the organization. In truth, I had approached my job as an opportunity to make amends with myself in the sport given what I had previously only understood as failure and saw leading Alpine Ontario as a second chance to be successful in ski racing. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the self-reflective work I did and poured into writing the speech ultimately led to a deeper understanding of my experiences at the national level and appreciation for all that I had achieved in ski racing. As a result, the very foundation of what had driven me so passionately in my work at Alpine Ontario shifted. I decided to share this with you today because it was the basis for my decision to depart Alpine Ontario to pursue amateur sport from a slightly different vantage point which, if you are active on the socials you can follow along @scottbarrettt – though, do not expect too much too soon!

Most importantly, what sharing this story has taught me is Alpine Ontario is living proof the 4P’s framework can work – not just in avoiding failure but in realizing success. While I am deeply saddened to depart, the organization has a great PLAN in place to develop world-class athletes who are surrounded by PEOPLE, including the Alpine Ontario staff, coaches, and Board of Directors, who are wildly PASSIONATE about the sport and are dedicated individuals who care and are PERSISTENT in their efforts to elevate the organization to the next level.

Thank you, Alpine Ontario, for the amazing opportunity to serve.

With gratitude,