DC, UOIT grad gets ‘dream’ job with Canadian Olympic Committee

Shannon Galea says she tries to implement Canadian ideals and values into her international work. Photo credit: Photo supplied

After spending years as an elite softball player and coach, a Durham College and UOIT grad is now using her knowledge to support other athletes.

Oshawa native Shannon Galea, 30, joined the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) as a Game Plan specialist last September.

“It’s a dream come true, it really is,” Galea said.

Game Plan is a program created in collaboration with the COC, the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) and the Sport Canada and Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Sport Institute Network (COPSIN).

Game Plan helps both current and retired athletes find other passions and transform them into well-rounded individuals.

“It’s a very interesting program, it’s one of the only programs in Canada and it really aligns our sport system,” she said.

Game Plan offers support through five areas: medical resources, skill development, education, networking possibilities and career opportunities.

Game Plan advisors are at the forefront, working with athletes and supporting players through the five areas. The advisors are psychologists, life coaches, career counsellors, mental performance coaches and other wellness leaders. Galea’s role, as a specialist, is to oversee the work of the advisors, provide resources and develop programs.

Galea earned her degree in Geography and Earth Sciences at McMaster University before graduating from UOIT in 2011 with a Bachelor of Education. Following that, Galea taught health and physical education with the Durham District School Board (DDSB) before continuing to teach internationally.

“Teaching is the foundation for everything that I do, it’s full circle,” she said. “It’s been the foundation for what I create and what I change.”

During her tenure at UOIT, she participated heavily in campus athletics. Galea was a member of the Ridgebacks’ rowing and squash teams and helped create the women’s flag football extramural league, a joint league between UOIT and DC.

Galea also graduated from DC’s Sport Business Management Program in 2012, then completed her master’s degree in Olympic Studies and Policy at the German Sport University Cologne.

As a result of her connections, passion and education, Galea travelled to more than 40 countries. She lived in Holland, Italy, Belgium, Malta, New Zealand and Australia and played in their respective International Softball Federations.

Galea, 28, received the gold medal in softball at the European Cup in Most, Czech Republic. She played for Caserta, Italy: a team representing Malta at the European Cup. Photo credit: Provided by: Shannon Galea

“With the coaching opportunities, I’ve been able to develop softball in my second nation — I’m actually a dual citizen in Malta,” Galea said. “I was able to develop softball in my country which allowed for NCAA coaches to come over and create better opportunities for sport for young women.”

Galea said her international travels have made her think more critically about Canada and her involvement at the COC.

“I think about the bigger picture in a different way,” she said. “It’s really helped me grow into, ‘How can I bring this back to Canada? What can I do to bring my Canadian idealism and values [to other countries?] How can we unite Canada? What can we do to make a more active Canada?’ That’s where my motivations come from.”

Galea's work takes her all over the world. She travelled to PyeongChang, South Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympics as a photographer. Photo credit: Provided by: Shannon Galea

Initiatives, programs and projects are always being developed and created to help athletes across Canada, Galea said.

“Right now, we are working on a mental health strategy for our athletes,” she said. “We have a partnership with Morneau Sheppell (a human resources company) and it’s a transition program for athletes who are looking to understand themselves outside of sport. [It will help athletes] re-identify and understand the changes they’re going to go through after competing at a high level for many years.”

When she reflects on her own athletic success, Galea misses the “physical tenacity and challenge” of softball. But she also misses coaching and teaching.

“The impact you can have on a child and a young elite athlete, you can’t describe it,” she said. “I spent seven years travelling internationally, working with children in every international federation I’ve played in. I wanted to be a role model for the young athletes that I coached and for the people that I love.”