Athlete Rep Spotlight: Matt Dunstone, Curling

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.

Matt Dunstone

Name: Matt Dunstone
Sport: Curling
Position: Skip
National team tenure: 2013 – Present
Hometown: Winnipeg, Man.

How did you first hear about and get involved within your sport? 

It started with Amy Nixon, who was the president of the Board at the time, and our CEO at the time, Kathy Henderson who kind of came up with this idea. I know a couple of us athletes had kind of been pushing towards having that open line of communication with Curling Canada. But Amy and Katherine were kind of the drivers that helped get us over the edge and make that happen. I think we were pushing for about two and a half years now since we have had our Athletes Council with Curling Canada, and for the most part I think it’s been a very productive and positive experience.

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

There are a couple things. I think one is for us as athletes to actually understand the NSO side of things. It’s pretty easy for us to just understand what our side of it is and not really know what an NSO actually goes through to make things happen for us and for them. So just getting a better understanding of what they do and how they go about their business. And on the flip side, for us to actually be involved in situations and decisions that affect us as athletes at certain events and championships, to be able to perform and just to kind of have that center ground in that area for all of us to come together to try and get Canada on the podium. Whether you’re an NSO or an athlete, that’s what everybody wants. So for us to be able to kind of have this area for us to come together and try to grow as Canadian curlers, that’s been my favorite part of it all. And that’s why I think it’s super important.

Matt Dunstone
Matt Dunstone (Curling Canada/ Michael Burns)

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

I think it’s just brought us all closer. Especially in curling, it is a very unique sport where you have separate teams who try and beat each other all the time to get to the World Championships. But for us to be able to actually come together and work as Team Canada, that’s kind of been the biggest change where, in curling, everybody’s got their four person teams kind of spread out all across. You don’t really come together and this council has kind of been an area for one player of each of the top Canadian teams to kind of come together and work towards something. And then, having a voice targeted towards things that we would like to see in our Canadian championships that are hopefully going to bring more success at the world stage.

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

Once a year we do get together as a Council with Curling Canada. So that would be my favorite part, just the in-person meetings that we’ve been able to have and be face to face. The Zoom meetings are one thing, but to be able to get a little more personal and have that face-to-face interaction is something that’s super important and something I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. And hopefully down the road, that’s something I’m going to be able to do with AthletesCAN and with a larger group of people from a large scope and different types of athletes.

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

There are a lot of moving parts. As an athlete, you kind of get this tunnel vision that it’s just the event, whether it be the Brier or the Scotties and just winning that and going to a World Championship. You don’t truly understand all that goes into that, and how many different stakeholders there are involved to make all those events happen to allow us athletes to perform on a full time basis. Just learning about all of that, who all is involved, has been my favorite experience of it all. Just because it’s way over my head about who actually is involved and who gets a say, and just learning that part of it has been the coolest part for me because you have no idea how many people are actually involved just to make what seems like a little thing actually happen and go forward.

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

I think at the end of the day, the more people we have involved, the more people we can bring together and just work towards a common goal. Whether it be curling, skiing, diving, you name it. At the end of the day, with sport in Canada, we want a couple of things, right? We want integrity, we want loyalty, we want trust. We want to represent our country with class and dignity. And we want to win and we want to get on top of the podium and just bring people together to an area to help grow, to learn about each other’s experiences and ultimately push the yardsticks forward to get better every single day at each one of those aspects. The more people we have involved to do that, the closer we’re going to get to the common goal that we all have.