AthletesCAN, the association of Canada’s national team athletes, has a proud history of representing the collective voice of Canadian athletes to ensure an athlete centered sport system. As such the association, supported by an expert working group, undertook a system wide evaluation of athlete representation within the governance structures of our National Sport Organizations (NSO), known as, 'The Athete Representation Project'. 

A board of directors is the governance centerpiece of a typical NSO’s decision-making power. The Athlete Representation Project aimed to determine how the voice of athletes can be appropriately represented at the board level within these sport governing bodies.

This project, designed to optimize the influence of the athlete voice in NSO decision making, was especially motivated by the enactment of the Canada Not-for-Profit Corporations Act (“CNCA”), which endeavored to provide the not-for-profit sector with a modernized statutory framework. As a result of the CNCA, most NSOs were required to make significant amendments to their governance structure and bylaws, which changed long-established practices in the sport sector, and, as a result, the nature of the athlete voice within NSO decision making. The Project involved three phases carried out between 2017-2020 outlined below. 

The Athlete Representation Project Phases:


The goal of Phase I (2017) of the project was to explore the implications of the enactment of the CNCA to gain a better understanding of the current landscape of athlete representation in Canada. As part of the process, in collaboration with Sport Solution Program Managers, 49 sets of current NSO bylaws were examined resulting in the identification of 6 models and current considerations around the use of athlete representation.


Phase II (2017-2018) involved the Athlete Representation Project Workshop (“workshop”) hosted at the 2017 AthletesCAN Forum inaugural NSO/Athlete session September 21st in Ottawa. The workshop brought together 90 athlete representatives and sport leaders to discuss their perspectives on the current landscape of athlete representation within NSO decision-making processes. As a result of this collaborative discussion, four key areas emerged including considerations for athlete directors, prominent concerns, areas of consensus and considerations for developing a model for best practices.


The goal of Phase III (2019-2020) was to develop tangible tools to assist the sport community in moving forward with effective, inclusive, and broad-based athlete representation. To achieve this goal, structured interviews with athlete representatives and leaders from NSOs took place to verify key benefits and issues as well as areas of learning. Further consultations were conducted to examine international best practices including athlete representation governance models from USA, Germany, United Kingdom, Australia, Denmark and Norway. Finally, a framework of resource development was charted based on the learnings from each phase to support the optimization of athlete representation within NSO governance structures.

The findings of each phase of the project were consolidated resulting in the publishing of a position paper, 'The Future of Athlete Representation within Governance Structures of National Sport Organizations' published by AthletesCAN in November 2020.

For more information about the Athlete Representation Project please email [email protected]