We recently sat down with Alair Saskatoon Partner, Rhett McLean, who has a rich background in professional sports. Rhett spends a lot of volunteer hours each year dedicated to coaching youth sport and finds immense value in kids being involved in sport, so we thought we ask him a few questions to learn his WHY and volunteer involvement in the Saskatoon community.
Tell us a brief history of your career in sport and what you’re involved in now as a coach?
I started off playing minor sports in small town Saskatchewan. I grew up on a farm and options were limited, but we mostly played baseball and hockey. I had some great coaches that really grew my love for sports when I was young. I did not start playing football until grade 11. Football was a huge commitment as football was not offered in our town, and we had to travel up the highway a half hour for practice. When I graduated high school I had the opportunity to play with the Saskatoon Hilltops. I was fortunate to play 5 seasons with the “toppers” winning a national championship and competing for another. I was a captain for two season, a conference all star 2 seasons, and was an All Canadian choice my final two seasons. After my Hilltop career was over I moved over to the University of Saskatchewan. There I played 3 seasons and played in a Vanier Cup. I was voted a team captain 2 of my three season while being choses a Canada West All Star 2 times. After my third season with the Huskies, I was drafted by the Edmonton Eskimos in the second round of the Canadian College Draft. From there I played 5 seasons in the CFL winning a Grey Cup in 2005.
Today I focus mainly on helping out coaching my kids sports. I am always looking to help out with flag football through Saskatoon Minor Football, with ringette through the Saskatoon Ringette Association, or with Saskatoon Minor Hockey. I try to be a positive influence on the kids the same way coaches were positive influences on my when I was you. I love getting out there and encouraging kids to give their best effort. I always say “its not how many goals you score, its how hard you work.”
Why do you feel compelled to coach youth sports?
I started coaching youth sports to simply give something back to the community. I had a wealth of knowledge with football and wanted to try and pass that along to some younger players. I feel that it is so important for parents and individuals in the community to step up and volunteer their time to these kids. If there is no one to volunteer, these programs will not exist. Giving kids an avenue to meet new friends, work as a team, and learn a sport are critical in the development of any young person. As a retired professional athlete, youth sports is an outlet for me to get those creative juices flowing. I love interacting with the kids, hearing stories from the day at school are what their family was up to on the weekend.
As a business owner, are there any similarities in coaching and managing your team with Alair?
The similarities between sport and business are endless. It does not stop with winning and losing, it starts with teaching and coaching. Being a leader on the sidelines or behind the bench is the same as running a business. Laying out a gameplan and having the team in place to execute that gameplan is crucial in the success of my team in sport or business. Construction is similar to professional football. For a football game, we would put in so much time before the game preparing a plan to execute on gameday. That is similar to the Alair process in construction. Putting the time in planning every detail of a project before we start then taking that plan and executing it in construction is the way we approach any of our projects.
What do you feel kids get out of being involved in sports at a young age?
I feel that kids get so much out of sport at a young age. I believe it starts with meeting new friends that you might not know otherwise. Getting to know your teammates and how they acto on and off the field/ice is very important. Kids get the opportunity to learn from a coach who might not be their parent or teacher is very important. Learning compassion and grit are two very important things that kids learn from being involved in sports. The traits they learn at a young age can help shape the person they will become so they can pass those along to the next generation.
How does ‘Living Better’ relate to your involvement in sports?
Living better is always about an active lifestyle. Sports get you out into the community, meeting new people and experiencing new things. Going to tournaments with my friends is one of the lasting memories I have about growing up in sports. I see the same thing with my kids. Being part of a team and making memories that last a lifetime are part of the experience that kids get when they are involved in sports.