Controversy Arises After Sailing Coach is Fired

A Two-time Olympic sailor for Canada who joined the national sailing team’s coaching staff three years ago was fired only nine days after telling Sail Canada she was pregnant and intended to take maternity leave. 


Now, Lisa Ross wants her job back. Ross was in Andora, Italy, in March of 2023, coaching Canadian sailors at the European championship when she was preparing to take off to Spain for her following competitions and training camps. Then, the 46-year-old said she partook in a video call on March 17 with Sail Canada’s CEO, Don Adams, and high-performance director, Mike Milner, when she was instructed to pack her bags and return to Canada following the news that she was terminated. 


“It was strange and shocking,” said Ross in an interview with The Canadian Press. “It was a five-minute phone call where I was fired, basically, without cause. I was in Europe. I was in the middle of a planned six-week trip.”


Sail Canada credits a lack of funding for the termination, not her pregnancy. 


Below is a statement issued by Lisa Ross on May 29:


“On March 8, I told Sail Canada that I was expecting my third child.

Nine days later, I was abruptly fired while working in Europe, halfway through a six-week training and competition block.

At the time I was the only female coach within the nine-member High Performance coaching staff, a group which had recently added two new male coaches.

I love my sport. I love representing Canada and hope to inspire the next generation of young Canadians. I love the challenge of supporting my team to reach their full potential and perform under pressure.

Starting legal action to get my job back and speaking about this situation publicly are not decisions I made lightly. We need to have a conversation about women, mothers, and parents in high-performance sport.

Leaders and coaches should not have to choose between their role in Canadian sport or being a present and engaged parent. Family should not be seen as a limitation or a barrier to success. I have not sacrificed my pursuit of excellence because of my family.

I am a better coach because I am a mother – I have a broader perspective on my career, sport, and life. I am more purposeful in being value-driven in my coaching practice.

I have been involved in high-performance sport for over 20 years. During that time, the systemic under-representation of women in high performance coaching has not changed. At the Rio Olympics (where I coached for Canada), only 20 [percent] of Canadian coaches were women. At the Tokyo Games, this number dropped to 16 [percent].

This lack of representation continues at the provincial, university and community levels. I believe that women should be seen as leaders in every aspect of high-performance sport. Not just coaching other women, but leading organizations and teams, regardless of gender.

I believe we must make the Canadian Sport system better, so it truly becomes a healthy and inclusive environment for everyone and where we understand that humanity – including being a parent – does not limit performance and success but fosters it.

I want to thank everyone who has supported me so far. I’m looking forward to resolving this issue and getting back on the water doing what I love.”

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