Ultimate Canada Magazine – December 14, 2020.
Written by: Kevin Underhill
Staff Departure: Teri-Lynne Belanger
In August, Ultimate Canada announced that the organization made the difficult decision to reduce the number of permanent paid staff by 80%. Staff will be transitioning out over the next couple of months. As each staff member departs, we would like to individually recognize and thank them for their contributions to the organization.
If you have played in an Ultimate event over the last ten years, chances are you’ve seen Teri-Lynne Belanger’s name pop up in your email inbox. After the heartbreaking decision to reduce staff amidst an unprecedented year, Ultimate Canada says goodbye to the woman with the most famous email address in Canadian Ultimate after eight unforgettable years on the job.
Belanger joined Ultimate Canada in 2012 with a 10-year plan to revolutionize the Canadian Ultimate events landscape. Although Belanger — referred to affectionately as TL — won’t reach her goal of ten years, she more than transformed the events environment and is known by peers, colleagues and volunteers as a true pioneer and leader. According to TL, developing meaningful relationships is the bedrock to a successful and enjoyable work environment.
“The thing I believe in the most in a working environment is the value of relationships,” she said. “The most important thing we can do is build meaningful relationships. If we can work together, respect each other, laugh and have fun, that’s what makes work enjoyable.”
Numbers can never tell the whole story, but the growth in Canadian Ultimate events has been truly staggering over the last eight years. When TL joined the staff team in 2012, Ultimate Canada hosted CUC, CUUC, CEUUC, and CHSUC.
Today, Ultimate Canada is responsible for the entire University Series, featuring four regional events, two additional qualifying events, and a full spring indoor season and has doubled in size. CUC, which has blossomed immensely, even in the last five years, now takes place over two weeks featuring eight divisions and thousands of athletes. She was also instrumental in the foundation of the C4UC and qualifying series, offering a competitive indoor outlet for spring Ultimate.
The Ultimate Canada Conference, a staple in the Canadian Ultimate community over the past 10 years, made the shift from focused Ultimate discussions to world-class professional development opportunity, featuring keynote speakers, international sport leaders and community delegates from across the country thanks to the dynamic duo of Teri-Lynne and Danny Saunders. If you’ve attended a UCC under TL’s leadership, you’ve probably also had an absolute blast.
Although one person can’t — and ever-humbly TL won’t — take sole responsibility for the immense growth of the Canadian events landscape, Teri-Lynne Belanger was there, every year, spearheading the movement and pushing the needle, demanding the very best from herself and her peers.
“Yes, Ultimate is a niche sport, but it’s also a tight-knit, tough and supportive community. The community has high expectations and holds us to a standard and I think that pushes us to be better,” Teri-Lynne said.
Reflecting on her time with Ultimate Canada, TL emotionally remembers the human moments first and foremost. She looks back at the first UC live stream, the CUC opening ceremonies, the late night UCC discussions, the rainy CUUC finals. Ultimate is woven into Teri-Lynne’s identity. Her husband plays, her kids play and she says every moment was worth it. She’s proud to have worked alongside some amazing staff and volunteers and wishes the absolute best for Ultimate Canada moving forward.
— Editorial Anecdote –
Like anyone who has spent time with TL, I have dozens of stories that speak to her character as a friend, role model, colleague, leader and mentor.
The Belangers have consistently made me feel a part of the family, even well after I moved on from UC. I have crashed on her basement couch on many-a-weekend, TL has taken me out for smoked meat in Montreal, poutine in Ottawa, joined me for sushi in Vancouver. She has mentored me personally and professionally and cheered me on as I played in big games around the world. These days, of course, it’s mostly video calls. I could go on …. But before I finish, I’m going to tell one story.
In 2017, at the Canadian Ultimate Championships in Ottawa, one moment jumps to mind. We had just finished a particularly stressful day at the fields, littered with live-stream outages, lightning delays, rainouts, field changes, ambulance visits … you know, an ultimate tournament.
On the way back from the field, morale was admittedly a little low. The staff cars were heading back to the hotels for an evening of, you guessed it, more work, when all of a sudden, we diverted course. TL decided she was taking us to Burger & Shakes, a small cafe which also has an old-school driving range.
A group of us sat around, ate burgers, drank milkshakes (chocolate for me) and chatted about everything — except work. We used old steel and wooden golf clubs and mashed a couple buckets of balls. And although TL’s golf game could use a little fine-tuning, this was a class-A example of her leadership style. She always had a pulse on the group’s temperature.
Even though she was stressed and tired and beat-up and probably wanted nothing more than to just pass out on a crappy hotel mattress, she took the group out for an unforgettable 90 minutes of relaxing, therapeutic fun. We rocked the rest of that week.
No matter the struggle of the event, no matter the problems we had to solve, finishing an event under the watchful and supportive eyes of TL’s leadership, I always came out feeling amazing —drained, but happy. If you’ve ever worked with TL, you know the feeling.
Thanks for everything you’ve done for the Canadian Ultimate community, TL. We sincerely hope to see you at the field for future Ultimate events — whenever they return. – Kev.