As a passionate Canadian Football League (CFL) and BC Lions fan, I’m excited that November is here because this month is CFL Football Month – the BC Lions were in the Western Final and the Grey Cup Game happening this week. 

My passion for football and the BC Lions goes way back to when I was growing up with my four sports-loving brothers and watching football with them to working and  volunteering in the CFL and with the BC Lions team. 

My journey in football has been a true inspiration leading to many achievements in my career. It is also where I learned to ask for opportunities and meet some amazing industry contacts. 

I’d like to share my story in hopes that it will inspire you in your career journey to reach your goals and find those opportunities wherever you are because you never know where it’ll take you. 

Read on to learn more about my football journey. 

How My Football Journey Took Off

My football journey with the BC Lions really took off in the summer of 2004 with one of my most unique experiences ever. When I was a Vancouver Board of Trade (VBOT) Director, I was invited to sit at the head table for a VBOT event – the Kickoff Luncheon for the BC Lions CFL Football Season. 

The head table was located on the 50-yard line at BC Place Stadium, and I felt honoured to be sitting at this table with the legendary General Manager: Bob Ackles, the coach with the most wins in the league: Wally Buono, the Vice President: George Chayka as well as industry leaders: Dennis Skulsky, Tom Malone, Bill Weymark and Keith Moray.

During the luncheon, we started talking about the BC Lions Waterboys. So, I asked, “Who are the Waterboys?” It turned out I was sitting with the founders. The Waterboys are a group of business leaders who act as team ambassadors, and was created by Bob to re-establish the passion and energy around the BC Lions Football Club and to help build community engagement. 

So, I asked, “Are there only men in the group?” They said that they have one woman, Jamesie Bower. I then asked if I could join. They said they would be thrilled to have me on board and that’s how I became the second woman BC Lions Waterboys.

In 2005, the CFL awarded the BC Lions Waterboys with the Commissioner’s Award to recognize their efforts in the community and their outstanding work in helping Vancouver host the 2005 Grey Cup. I was also incredibly happy to be recognized as a BC Lions Waterboy and had my photo taken with the CFL Commissioner Tom Wright, Bob Ackles and Dennis Skulsky.

From then on, I’ve become active in the football industry and a passionate advocate for the sport and the athletes.

Maureen and the Waterboys with the CFL Commiissioners Award

My Football Journey Continues With The Grey Cup Festival 

I wanted to share another role in my football journey that was another stepping stone for my career.

In 2011, Vancouver hosted the 99th Grey Cup Festival, and I wanted to be involved so I asked Scott Ackles, the Festival General Manager, if I could volunteer on the festival committee. He passed my name to the Director of Volunteer Workforce, Christine Nicholls, and I got the role of Volunteer Orientation and Training Committee Chair. I was responsible for training 700 volunteers for the festival, and delivered the training over three sessions. I thoroughly enjoyed this memorable experience!

In addition, our team was asked to create an Orientation Manual for the 99th Grey Cup Festival. We had no template to follow so had to create a brand new manual. This allowed us to be creative in the manual providing CFL history and festival logistics. As a result, the finished manual received many compliments and great feedback from volunteers, managers and organizers.

I’m very proud of my team and the great job they did to deliver exceptional experience for the volunteers, who were in turn excited and dedicated to provide great customer service throughout the Grey Cup Festival.

When Vancouver was awarded the 102nd Grey Cup Festival in 2014, I was asked to be the Volunteer Orientation and Training Committee Chair once again, and was delighted to take on this opportunity. I had another fabulous experience and as a bonus, my brothers were so proud of me.

My Next Role in My Football Journey with the British Columbia Football Conference

British Columbia Football Conference (BCFC) is part of the Canadian Junior Football League, and provides opportunities for young men aged 18-22 years old to participate in highly competitive post high school football. Back in October 2011, I approached my business associate and friend, Frank Naso, the BCFC President, and proposed an idea. 

My idea was to offer players with career coaching planning sessions to help them get hired and be effective, confident and successful in their future employment. I knew that elite players can take transferable skills from their field positions into the working world so offering career planning sessions would be a win-win for businesses and the athletes. Elite players also possess many attributes desired by employers including: teamwork, commitment, discipline, initiative, tenacity, drive, punctuality, goal setting, loyalty, as well as the ability to take direction and recover from adversity.

In March 2012, a sponsorship agreement was signed between my coaching company, McKinnon Career Coaching (now McKinnon Executive Coaching) and BCFC. My coaching company became the official and exclusive provider of career coaching services to BCFC.

As part of the agreement, I created a workshop, the ‘Overview of the Hiring Game: Building Your Playbook to Get Hired!’, and presented it at training camps prior to the 2012 and 2013 seasons to the league teams. Players were advised of my role as a Career Coach for the league and how I could assist them with resumes, cover letters, interview skills and the hiring process. 

Through my initiative with BCFC, I worked with many players to help them get hired and be successful in the working world. I also realized that this experience was one of the many roles that led to my career in coaching.  

Finishing Up – How My Football Journey Can Inspire Your Career 

My life has been enriched by all the remarkable experiences in my football journey. I’ve met hundreds of great people, built amazing relationships, attended fabulous events and games, watched players grow and achieve success both on and off the field, and felt happy and proud to give back to the football community. 

By asking to join the BC Lions Waterboys, asking to volunteer for the Grey Cup Festival, asking to support the BCFC, my life has been transformed by all those opportunities and experiences. 

One of my mantras is:  If you don’t ask – the answer is always no. It’s just amazing the things that can happen in your life – when you just ask!

I hope that my football journey has inspired you to keep going in your career journey, to speak up and propose your ideas and to ask for opportunities wherever you are. Believe in yourself, you are talented and you just never know where the opportunities will take you. 

If you like to learn more about my football journey and how it has helped my career, read my book.  You can also read about myself, Maureen and my coaching company in about us.