HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
Hector Carranco found himself at a critical juncture in his life this fall as he moved closer to age 60. The long-time Rideau Canoe Club volunteer and then full-time employee needed something to lift his spirits.
For the past 19 years, Carranco has made the Rideau Canoe Club his second home – he can even see the 1,000-metre race start line from his house – and has held many key administrative positions. But when COVID-19 hit, the club was badly shaken and so was Carranco.
In late October, the board of directors decided to phase out Carranco’s full-time executive director job, the position he proposed to the club in 2013 and carried it out for 18 months before being hired permanently. His final day is Jan. 18.
Carranco was hurt, but understood why he lost his job to the pandemic. As a way to soften the blow Carranco asked former club commodore Tom Hoferek if he would consider nominating him for the Canoe Kayak Canada club development award.
Hoferek has had great respect for Carranco for his many years of service with one of Canada’s most successful canoe clubs and followed through with the nomination. Earlier this week, Carranco won the national honour.
The club development award is presented to a coach, club leader or volunteer who has demonstrated his or her abilities at developing a club or the sport through grassroots programs such as creating a new club or program or promoting the sport.
“When I asked Tom to nominate me, I needed to have closure here,” Carranco said in telephone interview. “Thankfully, Canoe Kayak Canada gave me the award. Someone said it must be bitter-sweet. Mostly, it’s sweet.”
Carranco moved his family to Ottawa from Mexico in 1996. Six years later, his daughters Galia and Alina attended a summer camp at the club. Their summertime fun brought the whole Carranco family into the sport in different ways. Carranco credits the sport for helping their integration to life in Canada.
Galia and Alina became competitive paddlers. Vanessa, his wife, learned to be a masters paddler. Carranco tried paddling as well, but it wasn’t for him. He decided he would be more useful to the club on shore.
He joined the board of directors in 2006, became vice-commodore in 2007 and served as commodore from 2008-11. During his time as commodore, he helped oversee a major clubhouse infrastructure project, and the introduction of the Paddle All program.
“The impact Hector has had on the Rideau Canoe Club has been absolutely remarkable,” Hoferek said. “Since his daughters began paddling, Hector has time and again demonstrated a commitment to the club and the sport that is seldom seen anywhere.”
Right from the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in mid March, Carranco knew it would financially stress the club. His first task was to bring home 45 Ottawa paddlers after the first week of the annual Florida training camp and refund fees.
All three of the club’s fund-raising sources – dragon boat, kids summer camp and recreational canoeing – were all seriously impacted by the pandemic. If it wasn’t for a $40,000 federal government loan, the club might not have survived, he said.
The dragon boat program, which attracts about 3,000 participants, was cancelled this summer and didn’t generate any revenue for the club. The kids’ camps were held, but in smaller groups and they ran at about 60 per cent capacity.
The recreational canoe program didn’t exist in the spring and was modified in the summer. Its revenue was cut by 40 to 50 per cent. Rideau was able to hire four full-time coaches, but its part-time staff dropped to 45 from 85.
The outlook for the 2021 season isn’t good for Rideau, which is scheduled to play host to the Canadian sprint canoe kayak championships as the two-time defending champion from 2018 and 2019. The 2020 nationals at Rideau were cancelled by COVID-19.
As a result of the pandemic’s negative financial impact, the board of directors “reluctantly concludes that the club will need to phase out the executive director position in order to preserve our ability to continue operations.”
“Collectively, we owe a great debt of gratitude to Hector Carranco, our executive director, for his many years of service to the club both in a staff position and as a past commodore and volunteer,” wrote commodore James Price.
Carranco is working on a transition plan for Rideau and his responsibilities will be shared by the board, volunteers, the club’s administrator and the coaching co-ordinators. The club also will pursue grant and funding opportunities.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for over 47 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.