March 9, 2021

Celebrating the Women of Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group

Promotional banner celebrating women's history month

Ottawa Sport & Entertainment Group employs a number of outstanding and game-changing women who have built successful careers, paving the way for future generations and serving as role models.

This month, we aim to spotlight those women, telling their stories and celebrating their successes.


JANICE BARRESI | EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, OSEG FOUNDATION

Did you play sports growing up?

Sports were a huge part of my life growing up and I participated in both individual and team sports. I played waterpolo, basketball, volleyball, baseball, track, cross-country running, and swimming. As waterpolo got more competitive though, I had to focus predominantly on that sport and admittedly missed the others.

What is a lesson you learned playing sports that you still apply in life today?

It’s hard to select just one life lesson from sport, I’ve learned so much. Sport has taught me the importance of teamwork, integrity, prioritization, persistence, risk and trust amongst many others. However, likely my most valuable take away from sports is learning to be accountable to myself and those around me. In sport, you need to put in the hard work and training even when nobody else is looking. Especially when no-one is looking! If you don’t do what you said you were going to do and execute to the very best of your ability, you are bound to let your team-mates, yourself and others around you down. There is little patience for excuses and finger pointing in sport Throughout my career and in life, I’ve done my utmost to be the kind of person who does what they say they’re going to do. I make a concentrated effort to keep my commitments and deliver results. I’m also committed to taking responsibility and ownership for my decisions and actions.

How would you explain the value of having more women working in the sports industry?

Having more women working is sport will undoubtedly provide greater diversity of perspectives, knowledge, experience, skills and backgrounds which is sure to garner better outcomes and results within the sector. Having more viewpoints around the table is inarguably a competitive advantage. In addition, having women visible and represented at all levels in sport is critical for younger generations. It’s hard for girls to aspire to be something when they grow up if they don’t see women working in the sector. Their natural instinct when they don’t see role models in a given industry or sector, is to assume this is not a career path that is open nor available to them. Ultimately, if we want sport to reach its full potential we need girls and women involved at every level, as participants, fans, broadcasters, referees and leaders.

What has been the most rewarding project that you’ve worked on at OSEG?

There have been so many. I have the privilege of being the inaugural Executive Director of the OSEG Foundation and have been involved in building the Foundation from the ground up – everything I’ve worked on has made been tremendously rewarding and made an impact in our community. If I had to narrow it down to one, likely the most rewarding initiative was launching the first annual Sports Day the Girls Way event. It was such a successful event with over 700 girls in attendance from schools across the city. The day was an abundance of energy, positivity, and inspiration with girls trying sports they had never experienced and hearing from Olympians and other role models in sport. The success of the event was in large part due to the collaboration with other like minded organizations supporting girls in sport such as Fast and Female and the City of Ottawa. With 1 in 3 girls dropping out of sport by adolescence, they don’t have the same opportunity to learn, grow and develop through sport as their male counterparts do. On that day, we came together as a community to inspire girls that sport is in fact a place for them and the feedback we received from the participants and their teachers made all of the hard work worth it.

What is your approach to dealing with adversity when you face a challenge?

For me, it’s a mindset. When I was younger, I tended to see adversity as failure and I’ve evolved to see it as an opportunity. Adversity and struggle are inevitable in life and it’s all in how you navigate through it. Adversity provides you with the opportunity to reflect, learn, change course and explore what we are truly capable of. Recognizing that adversity is just par for the course, also provides me with the opportunity to prepare for the inevitable and build my resilience and skill set that will better enable me to endure for those more challenging times.

How do you manage the time commitment of working long hours and weekends in sports?

For me, I’ve been able to manage the long hours and unconventional schedule of working in sport mostly due to the understanding and support of family and my support network. At home, we tend to all have unconventional work hours and we’ve made it work with strong communication and planning things as much in advance as possible in terms of meal prep, transportation, etc. Also, I’m in a much better position to balance the workload and hours when I ensure to carve out time for myself to connect with friends, exercise, read and pursue other interests. Ensuring I have time to step away to reenergize and re-charge has been key for me.


VALERIE HUGHES | DIRECTOR, EVENTS & PRODUCTION

Did you play sports growing up?

I played soccer, volleyball, field hockey, track & field, cross country, gymnastics, dance and rowing growing up. In recent years, I’ve started to play ice hockey.

What is a lesson you learned playing sports that you still apply in life today?

Everyone has an important role. Even though you may not be the top goal or point scorer, you are still an integral part to the team.

How would you explain the value of having more women working in the sports industry?

I am excited to see how many women are now working in sport!   The values women bring are passion and compassion.  We have drive and determination, but know when we may have to ease up or change our approach in order to get the best results.

What has been the most rewarding project that you’ve worked on at OSEG?

Having the opportunity to create the 2017 Grey Cup Festival in Ottawa was an amazing experience. The long days and exhaustive work was overshadowed by unforgettable memories.  I am also very passionate in my work with the local universities.

What is your approach to dealing with adversity when you face a challenge?

The biggest thing for me when faced with adversity is breaking the challenge down.  Smaller pieces are easier to handle.  It is also important to remove emotion from the situation.  Remain true to yourself and confident in your abilities.

How do you manage the time commitment of working long hours and weekends in sports?

I am extremely fortunate to have raised strong, independent daughters that are self-sufficient. Time management and balance are the key to success.  Keep track of priorities and schedule time to get them done.


ANNE-MARIE VILLENEUVE | VICE PRESIDENT, GUEST EXPERIENCE & OPERATIONS

Did you play sports growing up?

Yes, I played a little bit of everything growing up. I loved the team comradery and the social setting.  I would play everything that was offering in after school programs, and played soccer & badminton outside of school.  Swimming has always been an important part of my family; our parents made us take lessons until we were lifeguards and I was a beach lifeguard until my mid-twenties. We now have the same rule with our kids.

What is a lesson you learned playing sports that you still apply in life today?

Control your emotions.  Situations will challenge you, but if you let it get to you, it will impact your performance. Life isn’t always fair, learn to control what you can and roll with the punches.

How would you explain the value of having more women working in the sports industry?

I believe it’s about balance. Women bring a different perspective. Gender diversity, but really any diversity, makes us stronger and allows us to have a deeper understanding for one another.

What has been the most rewarding project that you’ve worked on at OSEG?

I have been fortunate to be apart of so many amazing events over the years, but the first year holds first place.  The first practice, the first game, the first concert, first job fair, first everything. It challenged us and it was exhausting, but it was also so thrilling and rewarding. It gave us a unique opportunity to grow into a family outside of our homes.

What is your approach to dealing with adversity when you face a challenge?

The biggest thing for me when faced with adversity is finding your sense of humour.  Push yourself to look beyond the negative and find the positive.

How do you manage the time commitment of working long hours and weekends in sports?

Love what you do, do what you Love! Plus, I have amazing kids so we make sure to make the most of holidays and time off.


STEPHANIE SPRUSTON | VICE PRESIDENT, CORPORATE SERVICES & GENERAL COUNSEL

Did you play sports growing up?

Most of my spare time during my youth was spent running on a field, a court or around a track. Growing up as a military kid, we moved around a lot and I was ‘new girl’ for the first 6 months of every school year. I gravitated to organized sports because a team was kind of an instant ‘friend group’ – when I stepped on the court, my shyness, background and social status sort of dropped away. When it was clear I was topping out at a compact 5’5” I dropped initial passions for basketball and volleyball to focus on playing soccer at university. What I love is that although my aging body is beginning to rebel against high impact sports, there are so many sports left to learn. I picked up mountain biking, skate skiing and (beer league) hockey only in the last few years. Rowing is next on my wish list.

What is a lesson you learned playing sports that you still apply in life today?

I tell my two kids (now adults) that life is a long series of relationships; sometimes you don’t get to choose who you have relationships with, whether it is teachers, coaches, co-workers, teammates or mothers! You need to learn to find a way to respect the different personalities and views of all the people in your life without losing your own unique character. Playing individual, team, recreational or competitive sports provided an early and often stressful practice ground to develop skills I try to use every day to figure myself out and to nurture and build relationships: diplomacy, the value of trust, how to recover from failure, the influence of humility, confidence, and ego and the self-awareness to recognize when to lead and when to follow.

How would you explain the value of having more women working in the sports industry?

In any industry, having a workforce that mirrors your customer base is so advantageous. The speed of life is only going to accelerate and buying trends are changing faster than ever; our employees are the best source of inside intel to be able to anticipate what our fans want next and where the market is going. There really is no ‘typical fan’ anymore, and so to stay competitive, sports and entertainment organizations need to have a workforce full of fans of all shapes, ages, sizes, colours, abilities, cultural backgrounds and gender orientations. To me it is not only a matter of gender equality; having women in OSEG’s workforce is a strategic necessity if we are going to thrive in this industry.

What has been the most rewarding project that you’ve worked on at OSEG?

Kind of a big picture ‘project’ but I think having been there in the very early days of OSEG and helping to build its multiple business lines to where they are today is pretty satisfying.

What is your approach to dealing with adversity when you face a challenge?

I am still learning my own operating system, but I am trying to take a breath and remove myself and my personal biases out of challenging situations. I find it is easier to assess facts and problem solve if I acknowledge my personal perspective and bench it for a shift or two.

How do you manage the time commitment of working long hours and weekends in sports?

Although my specific role is more on the corporate or administrative side of the sports industry, I see and feel the work-life strain that working in this industry has on our employees – it is definitely not a weekday 9-5 job for many. At the same time, I also see that it is the variety and unpredictability of events that attracted many of our employees to this industry in the first place. Sports and entertainment organizations might just have to work a little harder than others to create an environment that helps people to find their own unique sweet spot where they are thriving both professionally and personally.


CARRIE MCKAY | ASSISTANT GENERAL MANAGER, OTTAWA ACES & SENIOR DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, OTTAWA BLACKJACKS

Did you play sports growing up?

Every single day. The sport I played all throughout school well into my adult years was netball. Some weeks I played 4-5 days a week, often twice a day. Other sports I tried included cricket, softball, field hockey, touch football and long distance running, but netball was my true passion.

What is a lesson you learned playing sports that you still apply in life today?

You can not be the best you can be without the support of your team.

How would you explain the value of having more women working in the sports industry?

In the current sporting environment, the value of having more women in the workplace is to be role models for future generations. For girls to believe that they can achieve anything, and for males to value the contributions of women in the workplace. For workplaces to recruit based on the abilities of the person, rather than their gender. We all need to strive towards the time when this is not even a question. This, to me, is the current value of having women working in the sports industry.

What has been the most rewarding project that you’ve worked on at OSEG?

The Ottawa Fury. Being a part of the Fury family from the start of its professional existence, right through until the end. The people I met and the opportunities provided to me throughout my years with the Club are invaluable.

What is your approach to dealing with adversity when you face a challenge?

I always keep an open mind and look for alternative ways to overcome adversity. Having the ability to look beyond myself and my abilities to research alternative possibilities and never hesitating to ask for help when I need it.

How do you manage the time commitment of working long hours and weekends in sports?

Working in sports isn’t for everyone. It is a lifestyle choice and the long hours and weekend commitments are assumed when you choose to work in the industry. Working in sports, you are surrounded by people with the same lifestyle as you.  Throughout the years in sport I have built have a strong network of people that help me physically juggle my commitments, and are there to support me mentally when things get too chaotic. This network of people, along with my passion for the industry, is how I manage.