I have always been passionate about the ‘other’ side of sports. The business side of the industry. I’ve known for a while now that I would pursue this passion after my athletic career.
When I was a kid, before getting out of the car to go to a local North Shore (of Vancouver) ski race, my mom always told me, “Thank your coaches, thank the volunteers, thank your team’s sponsors."
“Okay, mom," I’d say, rolling my eyes.
But I always did.
There was one volunteer parent that my mother would always remind me to thank. My parents really liked him. They were volunteers too, my parents. They both had full time jobs, with four kids, and both volunteered at our ski races. They were on the course in the cold, before racer No. 1 left the start gate till after racer No. 84 crossed the finish line. With one kid in the race who they got to see for maybe a total of 15 seconds ski down the course. That’s some dedication, if you ask me.
I would email this individual my mom mentioned about twice a year, thanking him for sponsoring ski racing in the province of B.C., as I was working my way up from the grassroots to the provincial level of the sport. For years, I never received a reply from him. Maybe I had the wrong email? My mom would say, “it’s good practice, following up, thanking sponsors.” So I continued. It was no skin off my back.
Then one day, I checked my email and there it was, he had replied. He wanted to go for coffee. I was 16, and I was nervous. This was my first, real business meeting. I tried to keep my cool, and act as professional as a teenager can.
That one single coffee date turned into a decade-and-a-half long partnership with my very first sponsor. Eric Carlson supported me as an alpine skier, a ski-cross athlete, and a track cyclist. All through the numerous times I was sidelined with “career-ending” injuries, his support never wavered.
I learned a lot of lessons in my career. Retired athletes always advised me to be grateful for my time in sport, because I would genuinely regret when I’d leave it. Not that I wasn’t grateful at the time, but I made a conscious effort to be appreciative of the little things. I worked at being more present in my relationships, at not scheduling a thousand things when I was home for a week. I learned to appreciate the incredible opportunities we have as elite athletes.
One lesson has always stayed close to my heart, and I truly believe this is the reason I have genuine relationships with people around the globe. Be a good person. How silly does that sound? Be a good person. It’s not silly at all. I’ve tried to adopt this, to live it in my bones. I think this is why I’ve been successful in relationship building with the ‘other side’ of sports.
Three areas governed my life as an athlete. My happiness, my health, and my financial stability. One can slip, of course, but for the most part, I believe that all three factors need to be present, especially as I got older. I vowed to myself I was never going to be a starving athlete, and boy am I proud that I stayed true to my word. Mine was not every athlete’s mission. But it is the way I functioned, and it gave me a sense of purpose. If one area was slipping, I’d put my focus there.
After that first coffee meeting with Eric, I started hustling, connecting with my communities across Canada, primarily Vancouver, where I grew up, and Toronto, where we spent our summers north of the city. I heard a lot of no thank yous, and worse, no responses at all. But I always stuck with it. I always followed up, and I kept making connections. Support for my ski racing bills, that were upwards of $25,000 a year, started trickling in. People want to support someone they feel connected with. I always tried to carry myself with grace, authenticity and even a certain degree of vulnerability. I think people respect that.
I dropped the hustle a few years ago, for the right reason. I had created my team. I didn’t really want anyone else joining as I was coming to the end of my career. I became protective of my community. All of my sponsors meant so much to me, and I cherished every one of those relationships.
But the hustle came back, for a different reason. I started to connect with people in the industry. I was scheduling four or five meetings a week during our lead up to the Tokyo Games, my fourth Olympics. And it felt good.
I remembered how gratifying it is to connect with someone, to share the same ideas and philosophies, and to learn new perspectives. I needed to be prepared, to find a new direction for my life after my retirement. I felt so motivated, so inspired connecting with people. I trained better because of it. I was buzzing with energy.
Stepping over to 'the other side'
In the two months since the Tokyo Games, I have been building my business from the ground up, and the inevitable retirement announcement has come. I felt the post-retirement, “what is my life?” emptiness for about two days. The feeling was then replaced by focus, energy and passion. I’m proud of myself for setting up all those meetings, making those new connections. It gave me clarity. My excitement levels override my sleep some mornings. I often get my most productive work done at 4 a.m.!
I have started my own sports talent and marketing agency. AG Sports Inc. has come to life. Not many people know that my full name is Alice Georgia. It is an all-female team at AG, representing, for now, an all-female roster of athletes. I am proud to have already signed eight women, including Olympic medallists from Pyeongchang and Tokyo.
My hustle continues, but it’s not for me anymore, it’s for my athletes, for team AG.
In a male-dominated industry, there is plenty of space in the sports agency realm for female representation, and I’m ready to take this on.
A little disruption is always a good thing, right?
I’m ready to fight for these women, and show the corporate world that there is no better time than now to invest in women’s sports. There is incredible opportunity there. If the last two US Open tennis finals or the women’s gold-medal soccer final in Tokyo have told us anything, it's that we are ready. Canadians are watching our women, and we are ready to invest in them.
I can’t wait to help lead the other side of the game for Canadian women in sports.
Top, large image: Tim Rademacher