Amy Gangl, CRFP, CAT
Manager of Recreation, Municipality of North Perth
Share some of your most memorable career-related experiences
The first memorable moment that comes to mind was when I was a guest at a community event to speak about the North Perth Sports for Kids Fund. I remember sitting at our table and noticing on the evening’s agenda that I was schedule to speak after Lloyd Robertson! I had assumed I would play a small part in the evening’s program prior to this famous Canadian Journalist. Not the case (insert worried thoughts now). But as he began to speak, my jitters went away as I listened to his story. He told of how, when he was a little boy, he walked back and forth from home to go play hockey any chance he could. He talked about how recreation was an important part of his childhood. Wow. Message received. I thought if recreation had an impact on him, then imagine what impact it can have for others! I always knew recreation played an important role to the people of our community, but this message hit home with me that day. Ever since then I keep that memory close to my heart when I see others using our parks & facilities, imagining what their future holds for them, and how recreation plays a part in that future.
Secondly, I am humbled every day at the memory of being part of the team that organized the funeral for two of our fallen firefighters who lost their lives while on duty. Because of the massive numbers anticipated in attendance, the arena was the location chosen for their service. Our goal was to ensure the arena did not look like an arena, but a place where everyone can respect the memory of these two who made the ultimate sacrifice. A lot of hard work, extra hours and dedication were involved in making this happen. I have never felt such a strong sense of community as we experienced over those days.
A third memory I have is from our day camps when we introduced an inclusion piece into our programs. We ran empathy-based activities where children had opportunities to see things from another’s perspective and use that knowledge to be inclusive of others. Part of this program was borrowing wheelchairs from our local Legion equipment loan program and invite children to participate in games that day while being in a wheelchair. By the end of the day, children took turns helping each other and demonstrated creative ways to include everyone in our activities. It was a very rewarding day for us all. But an equally rewarding moment came a few weeks later when I received a call from a parent who explained her child was approached by another who invited her to play at recess. Her child uses a wheelchair and this friend helped make her feel included. When she opened up discussions with the other parent, they explained how our recreation program helped their child see the friend and not the wheelchair. It was a very heartfelt phone call I will never forget.
What would you describe as some of the most significant workplace and/or industry challenges you have faced over the past five years?Anticipating the expectations of the community and best serving those needs I find both challenging and rewarding. Challenging because sometimes our decisions are best guesses based on the information we have, but also rewarding when you hit the mark. I find staying connected with our community helps to keep me on track. It also helps engage the community to get involved to help us achieve our goals. A Greek philosopher was quoted as saying ‘change is the only constant in life.’ So whether it was the past 5 years, or the next 5 years, expectations will be ever evolving. That is what makes our industry so exciting. There is no ‘typical day’ in recreation. Every day is different and that keeps us on our toes and constantly learning. That’s what I love most about it.
How has your involvement with the ORFA affected your career?Wow. I think the shorter list would be how has it not affected it? I came from working in the health industry into the recreation industry 18+ years ago. I knew nothing about pools or arenas, except they were places to swim and skate! My background was in kinesiology, so I knew the importance of recreation, and loved that I was on the pro-active side of life rather than re-active side. ORFA has been my ‘lifeline’ for training and resources that helps me understand facility operations and management and keeps me knowledgeable about upcoming trends and allows me to do my job to the best of my ability.
List any best practices or tips learned at an ORFA professional development opportunity.Leadership takes work. Strive to be the leader you would want to have. Work hard in your role and invest in the people that you work with every day. Get to know them. Be present. For those of you who took the ORFA Leadership for Recreation Professionals course, you may know what I am talking about. I’ve made a conscious decision to change my ‘To Do’ lists into ‘To Who’ lists. When I handle a responsibility, I not only ask myself why am I doing it, but who will benefit from this. For example, when performing a safety check at the pool, I picture my daughter swimming there and have that in my mind as I do my inspection. This elevates my thoughts for safety. Sometimes we get so focused on the task at hand, that we forget the reasons behind why we do them. Knowing what you do and why you do it is important. Knowing how people will benefit from it is mind-altering.
What advice would you provide to colleagues considering teaching or mentoring within the industry?Keep learning. There are opportunities surrounding us every day to learn something new and help us become better. Also, don’t be afraid to share your knowledge and experiences with others. Our learning comes from our experiences, but we grow from the opportunities we have to teach or mentor others. This is the culture I feel ORFA has created for us. Ever since my first day as a member, everyone has been willing to share their information and genuinely wants you to do well. What a great feeling. Sharing our knowledge and learning from others ensures the sustainability and success of the recreation industry and, bottom line, improves quality of life for all.
Final ThoughtsDo what you love and love what you do.