Every day, Derek Kent gets to work behind-the-scenes with the best Canada has to offer.
As chief marketing officer of the Canadian Olympic Committee, Kent and his team tell the stories of Olympic athletes, who despite the heroic displays that leave us speechless, are mostly just regular, down-to-earth people. Mostly.
“They’re your best friend, they’re your neighbour, but they’re also built a little differently in terms of body and mind,” says Kent, a Montreal native who fell in love with sports while watching track and field during the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games as a six-year-old. “I’ve been in this role for six years, and working shoulder to shoulder with these athletes has been the joy of the job.”
Kent and his team give it the proverbial 110% when it comes to pulling back the curtain on these intense competitors; they show just how hard athletes work in preparation for that big moment on the world stage while continuously connecting them with two million or so fans on social media. Prior to the COC, Kent worked at Nike, a company synonymous for its reverence of athletic superstars. Now he gets to market heroes from his home country as part of what he calls “the team behind the team.”
We’re all inspired by what these incredible athletes can do, and Kent is no different, except instead of catching it all on television every two years he gets a “front row seat to history.” A few highlights that have really stuck with Kent include snowboarder Mark McMorris winning a bronze medal with a broken rib, the women’s hockey team completing an incredible comeback after a shot off the post nearly ended their chances and high jumper Derek Drouin coming from nowhere to win a medal.
“You see them leave it all on the eld of play,” Kent says. “It’s rarefied air. It’s a privilege.”
Kent has also learned what it truly means to live like an Olympian. Yes, being strong and fast helps, but it’s also about the right mindset. Anyone can think like an Olympian, but Kent has some advice from his time at the COC that applies to the rest of us mere mortals, both within the worlds of sports and fitness, and beyond:
PERSISTENCE AND GOAL-SETTING
“The first thing is to never give up,” Kent says. “Olympians have an amazing ability to overcome obstacles and face adversity like no other individuals I’ve ever come across. What would derail the ambitions of most people is simply a bump in the road to them.”
“Olympic athletes also set goals for themselves,” he explains “They raise the bar, and always move forward. They dream big, and say ‘why not me?’ That’s great advice that everyone can take away from our athletes.”
FAILURE AS PART OF THE GAME
In this context, Kent expounds that Olympians don’t fear failure, which is probably the biggest
thing holding the rest of us back, impeding our progress on life’s multiple playing fields.
And even though Kent’s front row seat at the Games has sometimes meant being up close and personal to a heartbreaking, devastating loss or injury, he understands that it’s all part of the beauty of sports, and people pushing themselves to the limit.
MENTAL TOUGHNESS AND FOCUS
What else has he learned from our athletes? Mental toughness.
“They’re superhuman in many ways, sharing physical capacities that are second to none, but come in different shapes and sizes. What additionally separates and defines them as a group is their ability to focus when it matters most, to live in the moment and prepare to be their best when it counts.”
Whether working out for a marathon or just looking to shed a few pounds, every Olympic athlete goes about their daily training in a similar way. It isn’t about particular exercises, but rather having the focus to see things through.
CONFIDENCE TEMPERED WITH MODESTY
Kent says they have the uncanny ability to “be really confident but also equally humble,” never forgetting their roots, and often being dedicated to helping the community at large.
“Team Canada athletes are wonderfully approachable,” he explains, “they all want to give back to their communities in many ways.”
THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT
In closing, Kent was more than enthusiastic about the future of our super-athletes.
“The Team Canada brand is strong right now,” he says proudly, “and that’s thanks to our partners, since we’re 98% privately funded.”
And with programs like the RBC Training Ground firmly in place, they’re already starting to identify the next generation of Canadian Olympians who will one day capture the nation’s attention, so don’t be surprised if the medals keep coming and heroes keep emerging for decades to come.
As for Kent’s essential role in the process, the passionate marketer on the “team behind the team,” promises to keep sharing the Olympic-sized stories the best way they can.
“What drives our team is the question: how can we help our athletes?” Kent says. “We’re story- tellers, bringing this to life, and we want our stories to inspire an entire country.”
For more on Derek Kent, the Canadian Olympic Committee and our Olympians, power to olympic.ca and olympic.org/canada.