ABBOTSFORD, British Columbia — Tom Eaton is exceptionally passionate about the Abbotsford Minor Fastball Association (AMFA). I recently had a fascinating conversation with him to learn more about why he is so involved.
What is your position with the AMFA, and how long have you had it?
Tom Eaton: I am the President of the Association and have held this position for six years.
In what way do you feel you are qualified for this position?
Eaton: I was actively looking for an opportunity to contribute to my community in the sports sector, health care, or education. I was on the advisory council for Canuck Place for one year. I was interested in providing leadership in minor sports to provide my kids with a role model for grassroots community impact. I also coach my oldest girl, Olivia. Professionally, I have roughly 15 years of experience in various management, leadership, and executive roles. I have a bachelor’s degree in Commerce from McMaster. I am certified by the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and the Institute of Corporate Directors in not-for-profit governance. I grew up as a four-sport athlete—playing baseball, hockey, football, and rugby at the university and provincial levels. I believe early sports specialization can lead to attrition; kids should explore different activities and interests in their youth to ensure balance.
What is the philosophy of AMFA?
Eaton: Our purpose is “to connect our community under a common interest and allow children to explore the joy of sport.” We are grounded in five core values: Effort, Passion, Commitment, Integrity, and in 2020, in the wake of social injustice, we added the fifth core value, Equality.
How do you feel about leadership in sports these days?
Eaton: I think there is a misunderstanding in assembling leadership teams for minor sports; playing and loving a sport doesn’t always translate to sound leadership for a sports association. Of course, it helps if you have dedication and passion, but specific skills, training, and qualifications are essential. We have assembled some incredibly dynamic and qualified people on our leadership team. We have also minimized annual board attrition while actively recruiting for fit and necessary skills. We have grown our Executive team from eight members in 2015 to 24 this year. We are deliberate about finding the right people for our board. Along with our incredible coaches and team managers, these people are essential in moving the Association forward. Before the pandemic, there were 120 softball associations in BC. Roughly one-quarter were able to return to gameplay in 2020, but unfortunately, about five percent couldn’t provide programming this past season, as the required waivers, protocols, and policies were challenging to navigate. Only a few softball associations managed to grow, registering more players in 2021 than in 2019. The AMFA is proud to be one of them.
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