Athlete Rep Spotlight: Mercedes Nicoll, Snowboard

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.

Mercedes Nicoll

Name: Mercedes Nicoll
Sport: Snowboard
Event: Halfpipe
National team tenure: 1999-2018
Hometown: Whistler, B.C.

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

Our Executive Director at Canada Snowboard approached me to help create an Athletes’ Council – that’s how I got started. In sport, I was kind of always questioning why things were happening and being part of the Athletes’ Council allowed me to get the answers and understand the business side of what a National Sport Organization does. So it’s all thanks to the Executive Director that I got started in athlete representation. 

Mercedes Nicoll
Mercedes Nicoll (Courtesy of Snowboard Canada)

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

In sport, in Canada, it is of the utmost importance because you wouldn’t have a National Sport Organization without the athletes. So if you don’t have an athlete on your Board yet or at the discussion table and their voice isn’t being heard, then I don’t think you’re doing due diligence to the rest of the athletes coming up in the system. So, I think it’s really important to have an athlete-centered program for every National Sport Organization and work with Sport Canada on that as well.

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

There are so many ways that I used my voice to impact the athletes in snowboarding. Being the Chair of the Athletes’ Council for seven years now, we’ve learned a lot and also listened a lot to the athletes. I know funding is always a big factor and one of the wins that we had was actually listening to what was coming in from the government and then being able to listen to the athletes, what they were paying for and get some of that money back in their pockets. Obviously, during a pandemic going through all of those things was really expensive and doing all those tests was really expensive. So that’s like one thing that we helped with the athletes. But I mean, it’s a day-to-day listening and understanding grind and using your voice at the table, especially the Board table, to give the Board members a better understanding of what it is to be an athlete and how much it costs. And sitting on Boards seems insignificant maybe to athletes, but it really does build an understanding for other people who are in those seats to see exactly where athletes are and have their voice heard.

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

I have so many memories of being involved with athlete advocacy. I’ve sat on the Board of AthletesCAN. That was super enlightening. I probably would say the AthletesCAN Forum. Those are my best memories because that’s when you get a better understanding of where all athletes are at and how you can help them or how they can help you. You can bounce ideas off of each other just to get an understanding and better what you want to be as an athlete representative, and take it back to your program.

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

As I’ve been an athlete representative for Canada Snowboard, I’ve learned a lot. I would say I was very green and I didn’t understand anything, and now I’ve been a director on the Board for many years. I think the most valuable thing is being able to have patience as well as listening to both sides of every party, and and just taking it in and not being afraid to share that voice of an athlete because it is so important.

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

You should join AthletesCAN because there are just so many resources and so many amazing reps that you get to meet. I do hope that you join as a rep so that you can come to Forum. It’s really one of the best places to meet other athletes and get an understanding of what other athletes are doing, and how you can better sport for the next generation as well as your generation of athletes. There are so many resources out there that you’re probably not aware of. So head over to the AthletesCAN website or just ask a staff member, find another athlete rep and they’ll be willing to help you because it’s not an easy path to take at first. But once you understand what’s involved, it’s so good and it and it’s so helpful and really we’re all just here to make sport better for the next generation and to have our voice heard as athletes.