When Victoria’s Kelly Mann took on the job of president/CEO of the BC Games Society in 1999, he wasn’t sure he was ready, but knew he had plenty of energy and common sense to help the organization progress.
Having honed his skills at the operations level for six years, he oversaw the transformation of a recreational, all-ages event into one of the country’s premiere developmental multi-sport competitions.
The ongoing impact of the change on sport systems in British Columbia, and his determination to share that successful model with other jurisdictions in Canada, helped earn Mann nomination into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in the builder category.
He is among the inductees in the class of 2021, along with University of Victoria and national team basketball star Eli Pasquale (posthumously), and Victoria resident Gerry Gilmore, a talented softball, field hockey and basketball player from the 1950s and 60s.
Upon his retirement from the BC Games Society in 2018, Mann saw the organization was in good shape, with people in leadership roles who would continue the work.
“To be part of changing the culture of the Games, the profile of the Games, the athlete model and the sports sector and to be able to do that with my colleagues, with that collective … when I said my goodbyes, I knew that stays forever, that I think is what I’m most proud of,” he said.
Once the Games moved into a developmental role, where up and coming young athletes competed as part of their sports journey, the organization began tracking names to see where they ended up.
“We found we were very helpful in building the system; athletes were moving on not in spite of (the Games), but because of it.”
Team B.C. numbers at the Canada Games routinely show the majority of athletes came through the BC Games.
Moira Gookstetter, former BC Games Society director, summed it up in a profile on Mann by hall of fame curator Jason Beck.
“As a result of Kelly’s leadership, we have a provincial family of over 100,000 leaders, volunteers, athletes, coaches, officials, media, and parents who are forever connected through the BC Games movement,” Gookstetter said.
Among Mann’s initiatives was to connect local athletes with their hometown newspapers to help share their stories with the greater community.
While the competitive experience of athletes and coaches is important, the lasting effects of being part of something bigger than themselves can’t be overstated, said Mann.
“If we do our jobs at the BC Games and these kids have an outstanding time, they walk in the Olympic-style medal ceremony … if they had that experience and remain in sport, in any number of ways, then we’ve done our job.”
COVID prevented the annual hall of fame induction gala from happening in 2020 and last year, so the celebration of both induction classes are being combined at an event at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Among the Greater Victoria inductees from 2020 were the 1979-80 UVic Vikings men’s basketball team, of which Pasquale was a huge part, and longtime sports journalist Cleve Dheensaw.
The induction ceremony is June 9.
Read more about the inductees and the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame in BC Place Stadium at bcsportshall.com.