Meet the consultants

Greg Rokosh

A former Olympic competitor in rowing and before that a top wrestling prospect, Sport Canada consultant Greg Rokosh grew up in southern Saskatchewan “without ever seeing a body of water larger than a bathtub.”

After taking a business degree at the University of Saskatchewan, Rokosh spent four years in Toronto working as a computer programmer and systems analyst for Shell Canada. In 1974, he came to Ottawa to work with Dr. Martin Bielz as a coaching coordinator for the Canadian Amateur Rowing Association, joining Sport Canada in 1976 as consultant for the Game Plan sports of canoeing, rowing, wrestling and weightlifting.

Rokosh began his athletic career playing a variety of sports until university where he concentrated on football as a member of the varsity team for five years. During his fifth year, he took up wrestling and, following graduation and the move to Toronto, he aimed to make the 1968 Olympic team.

A leg injury incurred while wrestling led him to try rowing as therapy. From then on, all his efforts were concentrated on rowing to such an extent that he made the 1972 Olympic team in fours along with Don Curphey, Ian Gordon, and Carl Jonker.

“Our first race as a unit was the heat of the Olympics,” recalls Rokosh. “We found we were as fast as everyone else but we lacked the technical experience to handle the crucial last 250 metres.” Rokosh’s boat still managed a respectable ninth place finish out of 21 competitors. He intended to continue competing but the essential technical experience eluded him after the Games. He eventually retired because of the lack of opportunity to train intensively in Toronto.

After moving to Ottawa in 1974, Rokosh applied his athletic experience to coaching and has handled such top rowers as Bev and Trice Cameron. However, he says the demands of being a consultant leave little time for heavy involvement in coaching.

According to Rokosh, having an empathy for sport is fundamental to being a consultant. “You have to understand what an athlete, and a coach, and a sport administrator are thinking before attempting to analyze what they are doing,” he says.

As he puts it, the orientation of a consultant is to work at the program level, that is, with the national sport governing bodies. While the specifics of a particular sport are left to the national coaches and technical experts, a consultant will discuss with them the overall plan for development of teams and athletes.

“Our concern is that performance levels indicate proper training,” says Rokosh. “We make sure that a NSGB has developed proper systems of talent identification, coaching development, and control and monitoring of individual training programs.”

Put simply, a consultant acts as an intermediary between Sport Canada and the NSGBs, doing so with extensive knowledge of both bodies. Rokosh uses the example of being able to intelligently assess a budget request from a NSGB and then advising Sport Canada on the validity of the request.

In short, the focus of the job is twofold. On the one hand, there is the matter of classification of technical operations and delivery mechanisms. On the other, a consultant offers expertise in the organizational and administrative concerns of NSGBs.

With his background in business, Rokosh is vitally interested in administration. In his view, sound business practises help a NSGB to meet the realities of high performance and of development of a broad base of participation for the sport throughout the country, without which sport cannot develop to its full potential.

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