Scott McRoberts has always been a leader.
From his days playing youth hockey through his formal education to his role as director of athletics at the University of Guelph, McRoberts has always been passionate about improving the people and places he encounters, always leading by example.
This week, McRoberts will meet with fellow leaders from across the country for the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference. He is one of 240 past participants to be invited back for the conference’s 40th anniversary in Ottawa where the nation’s emerging leaders in business, labour, government, NGO’s, education and the cultural sector will meet.
Bridging sectors and sharing knowledge and experience with such a wide range of peers left a profound impact on McRoberts, motivating him to revisit the opportunity for a second year.
“This conference really made me realize that service to others is more important than ever,” he said.
“I learned about my privilege, about putting people before profits and it enabled me to look at things from a different perspective having met people I never would have crossed paths with.”
Safe sport at U of G
Much of that learning complements what McRoberts has focused on since arriving at U of G in 2016.
An advocate for safe sport, he lives the values of creating an inclusive culture that is physically, mentally and emotionally safe for athletes of all ages, supported by the athletic department’s leadership team, including associate director Wally Gabler.
“At U of G, we have a responsibility to our community, to our athletes, our students, our staff and our coaches to educate and to be a leader in safe sport practices,” he said.
In graduate school at the University of San Francisco, McRoberts authored his thesis on inner-city sport education, teaching tennis to youth in Oakland and working on the team that built a tennis court on the grounds of San Quentin State Prison.
Studies have found that by the age of 13, more than 70 per cent of youth leave organized sport, he said.
“We need kids to have that opportunity to participate in a safe environment in sport because of the physical, social and mental benefits that it brings,” he said.
“I feel it is our responsibility to leave sport in a better place for my kids and for future generations.”
McRoberts does not balk at the work ahead but is honest about the culture change necessary to ensure sport is safe for everyone. “There a mass shift in sport that needs to happen, and it is starting,” he acknowledged, pointing to recent developments within Hockey Canada. “We can’t hide from it, we need to embrace it, we need to talk about it and educate one another.”
Taking Team Ontario to the North American Indigenous Games
Following the Governor General’s conference, McRoberts will travel to Nova Scotia in July to the traditional lands of the Mi’kmaq to speak at the Standing Bear Indigenous Physical Activity Leadership Symposium and then travel as a member of Team Ontario, for the third time, to the North American Indigenous Games.
In 2017 when Ontario hosted the Games for the first time, McRoberts was part of a contingent that worked with the provincial government to present the bid after working with Indigenous Sport and Wellness Ontario.
“I feel all of us have a role to play in truth and reconciliation,” he said.
His dedication has been recognized with several honours including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Guelph Chamber of Commerce in 2019, a Distinguished Graduate Award from his alma mater Brock University in 2022 and The Casey Cosgrove Teaching Award of Excellence from the Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics at U of G. Earlier this spring, he was nominated by athletic director peers to the National U Sports board of directors.
“Our ultimate goal is to make sport a better place in the university system across Canada.”