Shocked, surprised and humbled were three words Dru Marshall used to describe the feeling when she first got the call that she was being inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame.
Marshall, the university’s provost and vice-president (academic), is one in a group of 10 notable Albertans being inducted today for their impact on sport — provincially, nationally and internationally.
“It’s amazing that you can be honoured for doing something you love,” says Marshall. “It’s really special that my former athletes and colleagues would see me as worthy of this kind of honour. Tonight’s induction will be a really emotional experience for me.”
With a coaching career that spanned more than 20 years, Marshall has had her share of intense victories and agonizing defeats. Through it all, her primary focus has been on people. “Rarely do you ever accomplish anything on your own,” she says. “As soon as you think you have, you’ve lost perspective.”
That statement rings as true today as it did when Marshall was an up-and-coming coach building a young field hockey team at the University of Alberta. Although Marshall’s role as a coach has transitioned from the field to the boardroom, her collection of coaching experiences had a big influence on her leadership style as an administrator.
“To me, leadership is all about maximizing an individual’s potential,” says Marshall. “That’s applicable whether you’re an athletic coach or an academic administrator.
“My athletes taught me the importance of collective leadership; that anyone at any time can become a leader and deliver the critical point that changes the way people think about things,” says Marshall. “Leadership isn’t about status, it’s about passion, personal drive and commitment.”
As she takes to the stage tonight in Red Deer, many of her former athletes and colleagues will be in attendance, including three athletes she trained who went on to make the 1988 and 1992 Canadian women’s field hockey teams that competed at the Summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea and Barcelona, Spain.
“During my days as a coach we didn’t have field hockey experts, we created them out of good athletes that tried out for the team,” says Marshall. “It was always so meaningful to watch an athlete do something in a game that you never would have thought possible. It really showed diligence and dedication to see them transfer a skill learned in practice directly to the field in a game situation.”
Looking back, Marshall recalls an experience at a national coaches’ retreat when participants were asked to create their own personal mission statement. “Most of the coaches who attended the conference had a personal mission statement to win a national championship,” she says. “My mission statement was to create leaders.
“We had a great discussion about my mission statement after that exercise, as many participants wondered if I shouldn’t be concentrating more on results,” she adds. “But my belief has always been that if you focus on the process, the results will take care of themselves.”
Penny Werthner, dean of the Faculty of Kinesiology, has known Marshall for many years. “Dru Marshall has been, and continues to be, a true leader in both the world of sport and academics,” says Werthner.
“The emphasis she placed, as the national women’s field hockey coach, on leadership development, on playing the game ethically, and on creating a constant and challenging learning environment for the players, developed great women as well as skilled field hockey players.
“It is my honor to be a colleague and a friend. Dru is a brilliant and worthy inductee to the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame.”
Dru Marshall on…
Winning bronze: “Bronze is a sign of a team’s true character; it represents those athletes who are able to come back after a devastating loss, and win. There are often more important lessons learned in loss than in victory.”
The importance of campus athletics: “Not everyone can play a sport, but it’s a really special experience for those who can. Athletes have a special responsibility as university ambassadors. They don’t always recognize or ask for that when they don their jersey, but it’s a role they fill. Athletics can be a door opener and a real spirit builder for an institution.”
Remaining physically active: “If I wasn’t physically active I’d be really ineffective as a leader. My workouts are my chance to get away and think about things differently. It’s part of who I am and how I manage stress.”
*This story originally appeard on the University of Calgary site and was written by Carly Moran.