GSMP 2015 Site Visits: Shanelle Barrett a Saatchi LA

By Brian Canever October 29, 2015

It is not uncommon to see tears shed between mentor and emerging leader at the airport or the office on the final day of almost three weeks together. But to shed them before the end of the Site Visit interview is much rarer. Fittingly, during the last stop of the 2015 U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring ProgramShanelle Barrett and Joan Coraggio pulled off the feat.

“Normally when I travel I get really homesick, but this time in LA has gone so fast and I’m not ready to go home yet,” said Shanelle, technical and events advisor for Triathlon New Zealand. “Joan’s energy and ability to make me feel so comfortable; to send me in the right direction and hone in on my passions has been life-changing.”

Moved by Shanelle’s words, Joan responded, “Hearing your story is so inspiring to all of us at Saatchi LA. I’m just awed by your drive and determination. I’m glad my daughter got to meet a strong woman and athlete like you who cares about the world.”

The story to which Joan, group communications director of brand integration, was referring is Shanelle’s journey from a forced retirement days before being announced as a member of New Zealand’s triathlon team for the 2004 Athens Olympics, to becoming one of the sport’s top officials internationally.

“Making the Olympics was my lifelong dream,” Shanelle said. “I was determined to make that come true.”

Shanelle succeeded eight years later in 2012 when she was named an official for the London Olympics. She is now in line to represent New Zealand in Rio de Janeiro next summer.

Despite her own professional success, Shanelle is more concerned about the stiff challenges facing many female referees and officials in triathlon, as well as others like rugby and cricket that are popular in New Zealand and other Commonwealth countries, but traditionally male-dominated.

“For females to come into that space as officials is very difficult,” Shanelle said. “But, why can’t we? Physiologically, it’s no different. There’s no strength issue. As long as we’re passionate, we love and know the sport inside out, we should be on a level playing field with the guys.”

Joan joked that Shanelle has probably created two or three separate Action Plans in their time together, noting her broad range of sporting passions and keen eye for gender parity. Shanelle could only smile and agree.

One of the only four-time mentors in the GSMP (previous emerging leaders were Grace Kiraguri, 2012; Luz Amuchastegui, 2013; Salhat Abbasova, 2014), Joan has helped Shanelle narrow her ideas significantly; even though the impact has the potential to be every bit as significant as three Action Plans.

“Everyday during the time we’re together, I think about the tools we can give you to create the movement that you’re looking for,” Joan said. “To me that feels powerful, and I’m thrilled to be a small part of it.”

For Shanelle, that movement will start by creating FORU, the first-ever international federation for female officials across all sports – a monumental task that both mentor and emerging leaders are convinced she will achieve.

Listen to the Center’s podcast conversation with Shanelle and Joan at the link below