Former CFL player turned motivational speaker talks to first-year SPMA class


It was 8:00 a.m. in the morning, there were tables full of muffins and Styrofoam cups filled with coffee lining the hallway outside of the Sean O’Sullivan Theatre. A group of first years stood outside dressed like they were about to walk into a business meeting.

This past Saturday, Brock provided first year Sport Management students the annual opportunity to network and hear from industry professionals. The students filled Thistle 325; many of them looking like they’d much rather have been asleep so early on a Saturday. This wouldn’t last for long though, because the first thing that keynote speaker Jonathan Hood did was liven up the room.

Hood, a former CFL defensive back, began his presentation by asking the students to stand up and high-five the person next to them. He took the first 10 minutes of his hour time slot getting the students to engage in different activities designed to sharpen their focus and pull them out of the slump that lectures can often put students into, saying, “usually you go to lecture, you’re tired, you sit down in a seat, if you’re like me you start nodding off. You gotta get yourself energized.”

The energy in the room shifted as the students sat back down. Instead of foggy, glassed over expressions, they wore grins and sat on the edge of their seats. At several points throughout the session, Hood drew on his experience in the CFL to make a point about energy and engagement, “it doesn’t matter what’s going on in your personal life. Nobody cares about your marriage or if your kids are sick at home, or if you’re sick yourself. When you get on the field, you gotta shift. It’s the same thing in class, if you don’t shift you can’t maximize what you have. You have that energy.”

Hood then took the students through an activity that showed them the importance of listening. He stressed the importance of learning to communicate effectively. He talked about a divide in the way young people communicate as opposed to the way that older generations communicate. Young people have been groomed to communicate digitally and understand the etiquette that goes along with that, whereas older people value face to face communication skills above all else.

Building relationships was one of the main themes of the morning. Hood encouraged students to network with their classmates, professors and guest speakers that were visiting the university, who the students would have the rest of the day to speak to.

It would seem that there can’t be a Sport Management event without someone mentioning Brock alumnus Kyle Dubas, and Hood was no exception to this. “He didn’t start at University,” Hood said of Dubas’ lifelong involvement in hockey. He encouraged the students to use their strengths to achieve their goals and to shape their goals to fit their strengths.

The most important takeaway was in order to be successful, the students have to be themselves, take risks that fall within their comfort zone and take action. To be vulnerable is strong, “I grew up in a sporting world, as I’m sure most of you did. They say men shouldn’t cry, but athletes, we cry all the time, we cry when we win, we cry when we lose,”

In an interview after the main discussion, Hood elaborated on this point.

“I say this with a disclaimer because not everyone who’s doing the hiring has the same viewpoint as me so you may have someone who doesn’t care about how vulnerable you are, they want you to have certain skills, certain qualifications and that’s what they want for that job, but I’m finding more often than not, in certain jobs, especially ones are people and client centred, that people want to be around people who they can relate to and when you’re vulnerable you make yourself more relatable.”

Humanizing oneself is becoming increasingly important in today’s workforce, detailing your struggles and accomplishments to both friends and potential employers creates an image of yourself as a rounded human being.

“While I’m speaking, I’m sharing both my challenges, and my accomplishments so that when you look at me you don’t think ‘oh man, he was a pro athlete he just kind of got there.’ No, I’m like each and everyone of you, I went through struggles, I continue to go through struggles but if you continue to persevere you can get where you want to go. I think [vulnerability] is very very important these days. Just be true to yourself.”


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