Matheson aims for next big goal with key help from Smith School of Business – Team Canada

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THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, COC – Mike Ridewood

Ten years ago, Diana Matheson scored one of the biggest goals in Canadian soccer history.

Now she hopes to help the nation achieve another important goal in sport – creating a professional women’s soccer league – and she’s applying her leadership, negotiation and financial skills to get the job done. Matheson is developing this business acumen through her Executive MBA at Queen’s University’s Smith School of Business.

At London 2012, Matheson scored the decisive goal as Canada won a historic Olympic bronze medal in women’s soccer. The playmaking midfielder, who has represented Canada more than 200 times in her career, was also part of the team that won bronze at Rio 2016.

  • Diana Matheson celebrates scoring a goal.
  • Diana Matheson points to the Olympic logo on her shirt
  • Diana Matheson looks over her shoulder waving the Canadian flag

Injuries forced her to retire early last year, just before Tokyo 2020. While she was thrilled to see Canada win Olympic gold in spectacular fashion, she also reflected on an issue whose she and her former teammates have been talking for years.

Canada, she believes, is way behind schedule for a professional women’s soccer league.

“If it’s not now, it will never happen,” she says. “If Canada can win three Olympic medals in a row and win a gold medal like that, with most Canadians watching, and we’re still not going to build a league, then when will that happen? -he?

Calls for such a league have grown louder in the Canadian soccer community in recent years, but Matheson isn’t just adding his voice to the chorus. She hatches a plan to get there.

Make an impact on and off the pitch

Before retiring, Matheson envisioned what her career would look like after the game. She knew she wanted to stay involved in football, but wasn’t sure what role she could play.

Then the opportunity presented itself for Matheson to use her decades of playing experience to help turn the dream of a Canadian women’s league into a reality.

Diana Matheson dribbles the ball past an opponent.
Diana Matheson controls the ball during the Canadian women’s soccer team’s loss to Japan in Coventry at the London 2012 Olympics, Wednesday, July 25, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, COC – Mike Ridewood

She received a Game Plan Award to pursue her Executive MBA at the Smith School of Business. This financial award is one element of Game Plan, Canada’s Total Athlete Wellness Program, which takes a holistic approach to supporting athletes through their high performance careers and beyond.

Matheson started the EMBA program last August and is expected to graduate in May 2023. She says she enjoys a “world-class” experience in business education.

“The intensity and learning of the classes and the quality of the teachers have been incredible,” she says. “I can’t say enough about the program.”

The importance of teamwork

Matheson relishes the opportunity to make connections and learn about a wide range of fields, from finance and economics to leadership and negotiation, as well as developing a strategic sense of how they all are. interdependent.

And as a former athlete entering the business world for the first time, she appreciates the programme’s team approach which allows her to benefit from the experience and knowledge of her fellow students.

“Being on a team, I think, is my natural state,” she says. “Being part of the team has been very helpful in that I can always pick their brains, ask what this acronym stands for, ask them how it relates to their business.

Her next major step in the program is an individual project in which she will present specific recommendations for establishing a women’s professional league.

On the men’s side, the Canadian Premier League played its first season in 2019, so there is a precedent for a professional soccer league in Canada.

But what might things look like on the women’s side? It’s a question Matheson will seek to answer in the coming months.

“Business-wise, we need to find the right people to help us get there,” she says. “I think there is a way forward to create a truly innovative and exciting Canadian league.”

The evolution of the women’s game

Women’s professional soccer isn’t just gaining momentum in Canada, it’s been on a steady upward trajectory for years. Established leagues in the United States, England and France boast some of the best players in the world, including many members of Team Canada.

And last April alone, Spanish club FC Barcelona set a new world attendance record, gathering 91,648 fans at their home stadium for a game against German side Wolfsburg.

A team photo of the Canadian women's team in 2006.
Canada’s starting lineup poses for a photo before the Women’s Gold Cup soccer match against the United States on Sunday, November 26, 2006, in Carson, Calif. They are, top row from left, Rhian Wilkinson, Candace Chapman, Randee Hermus, Martina Franko, Amy Walsh and Robyn Gayle. Bottom row, left to right, Diana Matheson, Isabella Morneau, Erin McLeod, Christine Sinclair and Melanie Booth. (AP Photo/Jae C. Jong)

This is a far cry from when Matheson started his national team career in 2003. Back then, most of the team members (including Matheson) weren’t playing professionally at all. Today, women’s football has evolved to the point that next summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup will feature 32 teams for the first time.

This is why it is so urgent in Canada to capitalize on the success of the national team and establish our own league. Matheson says it would be “such a shame” if the team’s high-profile wins didn’t translate into a professional league.

“Women’s soccer is growing at such a rapid pace – sponsorship dollars, viewership dollars, everything,” she says. “Unless we build a league in Canada, the whole market is going to slip away from us. »

For Matheson, the timing and circumstances of his post-game transition couldn’t be better. And with the tools and connections she gains through the Smith EMBA program, she is focused on adding to her already impressive legacy in the sport.

“[Being in the program] made me talk to everyone, put my thoughts on paper, put all the data and the numbers together,” she says.

“We literally have some of the best women’s soccer players, coaches, etc., in the world, and we need to come in soon if we’re going to capitalize on that and build something truly Canadian.

The Smith School of Business is the exclusive business education partner of the Canadian Olympic Committee and a founding partner of Game Plan, Canada’s total athlete wellness program, which helps athletes plan for success beyond sport. Diana Matheson is part of a network of more than 220 elite Canadian athletes who have received academic awards from Smith since the partnership launched in 2016.

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