Supporting Sports: Karna Germsheid and the Sport Connection
For the past five years Karna Germsheid was the Executive Director and only employee of the Grande Prairie Regional Sport Connection, previously the Grande Prairie Sport Council. This year, she has a team and is excited for what they will accomplish together.
Germsheid grew up in Lloydminster playing every sport she could and loved exploring different sports. “I lived for sports. I enjoyed every aspect of it. To this day, if a ball passes me by I still want to chase it,” said Germsheid. “I don’t think I would be the personality I am today if I had not had my sport experiences.”
I don’t think I would be the personality I am today if I had not had my sport experiences.
She got into track and field because she was a good jumper with a great vertical and she was fast. Her coaches encouraged her to pursue it and she did. It was only part of her year but she had plenty of great experiences travelling to other cities and training with different people.
Germsheid went to the University of Alberta, was a varsity athlete in track and field, and competed in nationals. As an athlete who was unsure of what she wanted to do, she chose to major in Physical Education. “I always envisioned myself in sport for the rest of my life. And I will be. It’s always in me, but I didn’t grow up thinking that I wanted to work in sport.”
Just as her early life was filled with a variety of sports, Germsheid has had a variety of diverse jobs. Right out of university, she spent three years working for Rapattack, a rappel capable fire crew who rappel out of helicopters in the forest to fight fires. After that, she came to Grande Prairie to work for the Be Fit for Life Centre. Then she became an EMT. In 2007 she became the Communications Director with the QEII Hospital Foundation. Next she was an entrepreneur, founding BAM Media in 2010 and becoming the managing partner of Broca Media in 2012. Both companies were involved in bringing digital signage and displays to Grande Prairie.
In 2014, she was hired for her current job as Executive Director of the Sport Connection. A job they “developed in the last five years because it didn’t exist prior to that.”
“The Sport Connection is an organization that supports sport volunteers,” explained Germsheid, “And in Canada they’re mostly volunteers. It’s coaches, parents, teachers, or any type of sport leader. I spend a lot of our time helping people with their events and connecting them to resources.”
Recently, to better represent what they do, they rebranded away from the more formal and regulatory sounding Sport Council and became the Sport Connection.
The Sport Connection is an organization that supports sport volunteers. And in Canada they’re mostly volunteers.
The Grande Prairie region has over 200 organizations and over 80 sports being played. It’s a robust sports community and while not everyone needs support, or much support, the Sport Connection exists for when they do.
The Sport Connection has their signature events like Try-It Day and the Northwest Alberta Sport Excellence Awards to support and recognize the volunteers, athlete coaches, and businesses in the region. Germsheid loves her job and the events they put on because she “loves supporting awesome people who are all so deserving of that support.”
“The volunteers are amazing,” enthused Germsheid. “They’re ridiculous. They’re doing it because they love the sport and want to give people an opportunity to enjoy it. It’s shocking the amount of time and energy that goes into sport and recreation. They understand the spin-off. That’s so altruistic. That’s truly amazing to me. That’s why I like dealing with these people. I genuinely love the sport community.”
That’s truly amazing to me. That’s why I like dealing with these people. I genuinely love the sport community.
Due to their investors, the Sport Connection can offer many of its services and programs for free or low cost. They do a lot for free such as promoting new programs, clubs, and sports events; helping people write grants; connecting people to the regional municipalities, hotel groups, and other organizations; helping with council presentations or sponsor asset lists; and more.
The support of investors and others in the community is important so the volunteers can keep doing the work and doing it as effectively as possible. Support is essential since sport and recreation plays a role in decreasing health care costs, policing costs, and social service costs and increasing quality of life, sense of belonging, and economic impact.
“I know the end product as an athlete,” said Germsheid, “I know what that is like. I was that person who until I was an adult had no idea that all these coaches that coached me did it for nothing. These people were volunteering their life to me.”
These people were volunteering their life to me.
“To this day, I look at life through the same lens that I looked at my teams growing up,” Germsheid said about the new employees, “But it’s not just that I have a team, which is so important to me—I’m just friggin’ happy that they’re here—it’s that in the last six months we’ve exploded with new events and new abilities and we are so busy. It’ll be great. It’s going to be a great year.”
Their mandate is to increase training and education for sport in the region. They plan to roll out more opportunities more frequently and engage other businesses. There is a lot coming from the Sport Connection in the future!
One way they will do this is by hosting a sport conference to bring information to the region that volunteers may find valuable and otherwise can’t pursue. At the same time the conference will also contribute to sport tourism.
Sport tourism also plays a major role in our region. With people coming to town for sport events, games, tournaments, and other activities it’s important to expand the economic impact for the community by providing them with opportunities and experiences while they’re here.
Until December, all the event planning, event management, promotions, marketing, meetings, reporting, data gathering, and everything else the Sport Connection did to enhance, support, and grow sport in the region was done solely by Germsheid. Now they’ve hired two new employees: Paige Grasby and Jolaina Hahn.
…in the last six months we’ve exploded with new events and new abilities and we are so busy. It’ll be great. It’s going to be a great year.
As for Germsheid’s future, she still isn’t sure yet what she’ll be when she grows up. Now that the Sport Connection is on its sixth year she is thinking of a succession plan and that she wants to leave things on a high when she does eventually step down. “When I do transition out, I want it to be so the next person can step in and just take off and do another level of services for our community.”
In the immediate future, she wants to try pickleball. “I just see that people are enjoying pickleball so much. It plays to my sense of true sport where it is low cost, inclusive, it’s active. That’s what I really like to see.”
Once she eventually retires, she wants to work in disaster areas. “I feel like EMT is the closest I came to really pursuing what I’m supposed to be. I would like to use my skill set to help out in major disaster areas.”
Whatever the future holds for both the Sport Connection and Germsheid is sure to be exciting. Keep up with the latest information on the Sport Connection on their website at gpsportconnect.ca or their Facebook page.facebook.com/gpsportconnect