Athlete Rep Spotlight: Laura Walker, Curling

Laura Walker

It’s Our Turn, AthletesCAN’s new marketing campaign focuses on the stories of athlete leaders across the 68 sports eligible for AthletesCAN membership. The campaign highlights a pivotal moment for a new era in sport governance, underlining the athlete representatives’ respective journeys into the athlete advocacy movement both in their careers and within their National Sport Organizations (NSOs).

Each week, AthletesCAN profiles a key athlete leader among its membership, highlighting how athlete representation has played a significant role in their career and within their National Sport Organization.

Laura Walker

Name: Laura Walker
Sport: Curling
Position / Event: Skip
National team tenure: 2018 – Present
Hometown: Edmonton, Alta.

How did you first hear about and get involved in athlete advocacy?

About two years ago now, a group of athletes within Curling Canada were brought together and we were just kind of asked questions and asked to discuss things that affected us, things within our High Performance Program and our National Team Program. And I think a lot of us had our eyes opened in that meeting to the fact that we hadn’t really been asked a lot of these questions before. We hadn’t had any of these discussions before, and a lot of us had been around for a really long time. From that group, our Athletes’ Council was formed and there’s now a group of us that are involved in athlete advocacy within Curling Canada. I have been on the Athletes’ Council since it began about two years ago. It grew out of us realizing that we maybe haven’t been asking important questions enough in the past.

Team Canada’s Laura Crocker and Kirk Muyres compete at the 2018 World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship (World Curling/Richard Gray)
Team Canada’s Laura Crocker and Kirk Muyres compete at the 2018 World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship (World Curling/Richard Gray)

Why is it important for the Canadian Sport System to prioritize an athlete-centred experience?

I think as an athlete, it’s a little bit frustrating and a bit perplexing to think about why it is that we as athletes have to push so hard for an athlete-centered sport experience. Sport doesn’t exist without athletes. We are sport and I think that a really good amount of positive and healthy sport experiences are life-changing for a lot of people. It certainly has been for me and to create those kinds of people in our world. I don’t think that there could be anything more important than giving the people who are involved in sport the best possible experience.

How have you used your athlete voice on behalf of your peers and how has it impacted your sport journey?

In May of 2023, I attended a Board meeting on behalf of the Athletes’ Council to basically request a seat at the table to request to have an Athlete Representative on the Board of Governors within Curling Canada. And from that process, we were able to have myself appointed to the Board. 

We now have an athlete in the room. We have an athlete at the table. We have someone there who’s part of the discussions and who can just bridge the gap between the athletes and the governance level at Curling Canada. So that’s something that we worked to achieve and I think it is extremely important and kind of a long time coming. So that’s affected my journey in the sense that I’m now a governor on the Board of Directors with Curling Canada, and it’s helped me really learn a lot and see that there’s more than one side. I think sometimes as athletes, we want to see change. We want certain things to happen for us. And now I am seeing why certain things are happening, why certain decisions are made. It’s really helping me to understand the big picture within curling and kind of balance all of the different factors and different stakeholders. That has certainly been eye-opening and a really positive experience for myself as both an athlete and now as an advocate

What is your favourite memory being an Athlete Rep / being involved in athlete advocacy? 

I think my favourite memory was actually sitting in that meeting room with the Board. I think I went into it not really knowing what to expect. I hadn’t really met a lot of the Board members before. I didn’t know them. I didn’t know what kind of reaction they would have to me, asking to be a part of it. 

And I remember being met with such positive feedback, with such open-mindedness. The Board was really open to wanting to make this happen somehow, someway. And I remember that being just kind of a great feeling, knowing that we’re all on the same side and we just have to figure out how we can get there together. I think that’s a real testament to curling, but I think also kind of a lesson for other athletes in other sports that sometimes you just have to ask. Sometimes you just have to get in the room and have a candid, from-the-heart conversation. And you might be surprised what could come of that.

What have you learned about being a leader in your sport?

I’ve just learned how much learning there is to do and always will be to do. I think certainly in curling, but I’m sure in a lot of other NSOs, a lot of factors kind of exist in a bit of a vacuum. There might be the High Performance side, the governance, the staff, the events, the operations. All of these things happen a little bit independently of each other. And I think I’ve learned how beneficial it can be for all of those pieces to learn a little bit more about the other pieces of the puzzle and kind of listen to all sides. I just think that that’s really important and something that I may have overlooked in the past. And I’m really looking forward to continuing to learn more in the future.

Why should your peers join AthletesCAN and/or get more involved in the leadership of their National Sport Organization?

If not now, then when?  There are a lot of positive changes coming out with the Sport Governance code changing, with this kind of narrative in Canadian sport around creating that more athlete-centered sport experience. And I think athletes in the past have had this notion of wanting to get more involved. They’ve felt like maybe they’re not heard. They have had these feelings of wanting to do more, but either not necessarily having the time with our busy training and competition schedules and just not really knowing how. 

And that’s where AthletesCAN comes in. There’s just so many great resources and great people that it’s all out there for you. You don’t have to figure it out by yourself. You don’t have to have this daunting task of knowing where to start. You can start with AthletesCAN, and you can get a lot of your information from there. And it just makes it a lot less daunting to take that step to get involved and start to advocate for yourself.