Recollections from the Games: Shawnee Scatliff
To coincide with the official launch of the 2017 Jeux du Canada Games, we feature a U of M alumna who has more Canada Games experience than all our stories combined.
Shawnee Scatliff (B.P.E. /77, B.R.S. /84, Ext.Ed/91) is the Mission Services Consultant for this summer’s Canada Games. Scatliff brings to this role her experience as both a Chef de Mission and Assistant Chef de Mission from more than 10 Canada Games, numerous Western Canada Games and three Commonwealth games. She also served as the doping control station manager at the 2010 Olympics in Whistler, B.C.
An all-around outstanding individual, Scatliff was awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal and was nominated for YMCA – YWCA Women of Distinction Award in 2005.
Scatliff describes her role at this year’s Canada Summer Games and provides a behind the scenes look at the work involved in hosting a Canada Games.
Can you explain your role as Mission Services Consultant at this year’s games?
Each province and territory has a Chef de Mission and an Assistant Chef de Mission on their team. They are the heads of their delegation. The Chefs bring with them to the Games approximately 25 staff and volunteers to assist with ensuring their teams of athletes, coaches and managers have everything they need to make this a successful Games for their team members.
Some are assigned a sport or two to work directly with; some are support staff as in sport psychologist, medical liaisons, and communication experts.
My role at these Games is to work directly with each of these teams prior to the Games and during the Games. We had two large meetings where all the Chefs came in to Winnipeg prior to the games to make sure all the plans, venues; Athlete Villages (Winnipeg, Gimli and Kenora) were ready to go.
At those meetings I was also responsible for the social aspect, introducing the Chefs to Winnipeg and all the great things it has to offer. The teams are here to compete but they also want to experience the city and so I made sure they were introduced to venues that could hold receptions or dinners for their groups or where parents could go and visit while their athlete was not competing. Travel Manitoba did a great job putting together a guide for Canada Games that listed the many places to go and see.
At Games time, we set up offices for each province and territory in the Tier Building at the University of Manitoba. It is out of these offices that information is conveyed to their coaches, managers, athletes and parents, through a daily newsletter, social media, and emails and phones. The Tier Building was turned into “Mission Services” and our office is the Mission Secretariat where our job is to ensure that all offices have everything they need to make sure their teams experience the Games in a positive way and go home to tell their provinces and territories that these were the best games ever!
What do you remember most about your experiences at the Canada Games?
I competed in the first Canada Winter Games in 1967 for figure skating and then again in 1971. I competed in both singles and pairs and my partner Alan Cherniak and I won a bronze medal in pairs at both Games.
The first Winter Games were amazing in Quebec City. We stayed in a hotel at the Chateau Frontenac and it was very cold and snowy. There was a huge snowstorm one day that paralyzed the city and competition had to be halted until the roads could be cleared.
One memory I had was to go on the huge ice slide outside the hotel and slide down it with my walk-out uniform ski pants on because I was 10 years old and was so excited about my parade/walk out uniform I wouldn’t take it off and wanted to wear it everywhere. When I went down the slide I split my pants wide open and had to get ready to march in the parade very soon after. Thank God my mom was with me at those Games as she quickly found a sewing kit and got them repaired in time for me to walk out in front of all of Canada.
During the in 1971, we stayed in an old Eaton’s building, which I was so excited about as I loved the Eaton’s store here in Winnipeg.
In 1977, it was a bit of a different experience with tennis. I played doubles with my still good friend Marcie Saifer and although we did well we just missed the bronze medal in doubles. Probably because we both were more concerned about the cute boys who played for the other teams and they were watching us play at the time.
How do you feel your experience at the Canada Games prepared you for other games experiences or large international competitions?
The Canada Games is a perfect preparation for leading up to any international competition for any athlete. It is a multi-sport experience, which is different from a single sport national or international competition. They are more distractions. Different athletes from many different sports and provinces and territories that you may have never met vs. probably being familiar with most of your competitors in a national single sports competition.
Athletes back in the Village are asking how you did that day in your sport competition because they weren’t at your sport venue, the opening and closing ceremonies are much bigger than you have ever experienced, the media is everywhere asking for interviews, and your sport may be televised meaning you can’t be thinking about the cameras while you are competing.
Even eating at the huge athlete’s cafeteria is different than going for a team meal or eating with your parents at other competitions. There is lots of pressure on these athletes coming to a Canada Games, as there would be at any international competition.
If you have gone through it once it does prepare you for those extra pressures and the extra focus needed to compete at a Canada Games or an international games. It teaches you to eliminate all those distractions and only focus on your individual or team competition.
Then when you are finished competing, learn to enjoy the rest of your Games experience and all that it has to offer.
As U of M alumna, what do you think about the U of M being a key hub for this year’s Canada Games?
I am pleased and excited for the Athlete’s Village to be at the U of M. It has brought back memories for me of racing across the campus from the Phys.Ed building (its name in those years) to the Tier Building to take an English class.
The U of M has everything an athlete needs to enjoy their experience. The residences are close to UMSU where the athletes will be eating and socializing. The green space around the university is perfect for a quiet walk or a warm up or impromptu practise with your team. The Active Living Centre is perfect for an athlete who needs to get in a quick workout or stretch while on campus.
As well the polyclinic will be set up in the Helen Glass Centre for any injury or sickness during the Games. And of course having the closing ceremonies at Investors Group Field will be so easy for the athletes to just walk over to the parade of athletes and also to experience such an amazing facility. As well as having two competitive venues there in Athletics (U of M stadium) and Volleyball (Investors Group Athletic center) on campus is great for the athletes to just walk over and cheer their team on.
The whole Tier Building will be taken over for Mission Services and each provincial team will have their own office there and it will be the hub of the games operation for the Team. We plan to make it a fun place and even set up a nice seating beach type area just outside at the front of the building for Mission staff to come out enjoy the weather and the activity of the athletes milling around the university.
I am proud to show off my university to the rest of Canada and showcase what a great place it was to go to school.
You have many years of experience both as an athlete and as mission staff for Canada Games. What has kept you involved in these multi-sport events over the years?
What keeps me involved is the athletes and this wonderful program called the “Canada Games.”
Each time I finished a Games as Assistant Chef de Mission I am so tired and not keen to start again for a bit but then after a good rest I am psyched to tackle another Games with new athletes, coaches, managers and mission staff.
Games are always rewarding personally and since I have been involved for so long (almost 30 years), I have developed so many wonderful relationships with the other chef de missions from each province and territory.
We all spend a lot of time together as for each Games we have two major pre-Games meetings in the city where the games are held and we meet all day long as well as do venue tours and then socialize again at night for four days.
When Games come, we see each other every morning at 7:00 a.m. for a meeting to discuss any issue that have come up and work together as a team to solve them as well as throughout the day and evening with competitions and receptions.
You develop a special relationship with these people and look forward to the next Games to see them again.