Building from the ground up: Vertically integrating the recognition of game-changing Hall of Famers


The term vertical integration is typically something used only in the vernacular of sport scientists, sport development professionals and other proponents of long-term athlete development. Applied to sport development, it relates to the linkage of local clubs with provincial associations and national federations. Done properly, that vertical linkage creates a dynamic athlete pathway from the grassroots to high performance and podium success. It follows the evolution of a young athlete from his or her local soccer club, to district squads, provincial teams and, ultimately, the Canadian national men’s or women’s team.

Yet all of us associated with the BC Sports Hall of Fame and the fledgling BC Sports Hall Network like to think the term vertical integration has a meaningful connection to those who advocate for and promote the power of sport history, heritage and culture. We believe that there is somewhat of a pathway that creates opportunities for nomination, selection and induction from local or regional halls to those operating at the provincial, national and even the international level. That recognition pathway spans sport-specific halls of fame as much as it does multi-sport halls at the local, regional, provincial, national and international levels.

The fact that there is this vertically-integrated pathway is one of the sources of inspiration behind the BC Sports Hall Network, the emerging group of more than 40 local, regional and sport-specific halls of fame operating in British Columbia. The call to action that defines the network is information-sharing, collaboration and, ultimately, the economies of scale that are made possible by that kind of teamwork among like-minded people and communities that are dedicated to “honouring the past and inspiring the future”.

The theory is simple. The better and more inclusive sports halls, museums, galleries and exhibits at the local and regional levels, the better they will be at the provincial, national and international levels. Think of the best major league baseball franchises. In most cases, they have the best farm systems made up of A, AA and AAA tier teams and players. In general: The better the grassroots, the stronger the parent ball club. The more talented the prospects, the stronger is the pipeline leading to the major league baseball club.

We are convinced the same thing – a larger critical mass – will happen to the promotion of sport history, heritage and culture in British Columbia. And part of that will come about on the strength of the BC Sports Hall Network.

We are anticipating that the sharing of knowledge and best practices – along with both tangible and intangible resources – will elevate and enhance the process of nominating worthy game-changers (athletes, coaches, builders, pioneers, media and teams) at the base of the pyramid. That will ultimately create more and better nominees for halls of fame that are “up the ladder”. More and better nominees at the level of the BC Sports Hall of Fame will first and foremost increase its own capacity to inspire the future through the just and inclusive selection of worthy candidates. Stronger inductees – buoyed by their inspirational stories of triumph and victory, often over adversity – will turn the BC Sports Hall into an even more robust spawning ground for Hall of Famers at the national and international levels. And that will be good for the BC Sports Hall and even better for the BC sport system and larger community.

There are many examples of athletes, coaches, builders and teams who were first nominated and inducted at the local level, only to go on and be selected for induction provincially, nationally and even internationally. Among the poster children for “vertical integration” is our own Tricia Smith, the brilliant Vancouver lawyer who serves as President of the Canadian Olympic Committee. Just a month ago, Smith was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame – as a builder — at its induction celebration in Toronto.

Throughout much of her career, Smith teamed up with Betty Craig and they were a dynamic duo in western rowing. Smith and Craig won silver in the coxless pair event at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games. She also finished fifth in the pair event at Montreal 1976 and seventh in the coxless four at Seoul 1988. Smith won seven world championship medals between 1977 and 1985 and won gold at the Edinburgh 1986 Commonwealth Games, the year in which she retired from international competition.

The accomplished rower and lawyer was awarded the Order of BC in 2012 and the Order of Canada two years earlier in 2010. She was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 1992 in the category of athlete – rowing. Thirty years later, she was inducted earlier this year in the athlete category at Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. Her Hall of Fame credentials also include her induction into the UBC Sports Hall of Fame in 1994 (two years after her initial induction into the BC Sports Hall).

Tricia Smith is a local hall of famer on behalf of her alma mater at UBC. She is a provincial hall of famer at the BC Sports Hall. And she is a national hall of famer in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. She literally defines “vertical integration” when it comes to being a hall of famer and role model.

We like to think that the BC Sports Hall Network – founded on the promise of collaboration and shared best practices – will help us identify, honour and recognize all of the Tricia Smiths of the world in the years to come.

Tom Mayenknecht is the Chair of the BC Sports Hall of Fame. A principal at Emblematica Brand Builders in Vancouver and a nationally-recognized sport business commentator and founder and host of The Sport Market sport business radio show, he is a strong advocate for KidSport, Right To Play and other children’s charities. He is also a member of the Ringette Canada Hall of Fame as a builder.