Name: Maria Thomas
Position: President of the Trinidad and Tobago Rugby Football Union
About your position?
The credit for the position goes to the rugby community who elect their representatives. The Executive Committee represents, and acts on behalf of, our Management Committee. The community’s involvement in the process of governance is what brought, and will continue to bring, success. The global environment adds another layer to what is expected. We need to establish and create new innovative pathways. I’m grateful to be part of a team that is committed to implementing the wishes of our Union.
What do you enjoy about your job?
Opportunities to collaborate. It’s great to get to know the community better and recognise untapped potential. Rugby Americas North and World Rugby provide support, and we are able to access resources that help us on our path in Trinidad and Tobago. I love to see people excelling, especially when I know how much work they put in, so being able to support that is a joy for me.
What have been the highlights so far?
A huge highlight comes in the form of calls, messages, emails… there is so much support. Not just congratulations; also people asking what they can do to help, and offering ideas. I am excited about developing our framework to fit with business models. Even though we are a volunteer organisation, there are ways to ensure professional development and experience that is beneficial to our volunteers and contributes positively to their professional goals.
What made you interested in going into this type of work (when you first started out in your career)?
I’ve just been trying to play rugby! There is so much that happens in the background that people don’t always see or acknowledge, and if there are gaps there, we feel it as players on the pitch. I felt that part of supporting my desire to play, and my team, was volunteering my services wherever they were needed. The love of the game motivates me; knowing what an incredible impact it has on lives. I have been fortunate to have had many opportunities, and I want to help make similar opportunities available to others – to pay it forward.
What do you find are the down sides to the job (travel/long hours / missing family events/etc)?
There isn’t really a personal down side. I love everything that I am doing and it makes me feel more connected with family, friends, and the community. Financially, our Union is run through volunteerism. We need to work on strategies to secure consistent revenue to cover costs if we want to be competitive and achieve our goals. I’d like to see people compensated for the work that they do. In many cases volunteers put up their own funds to support endeavours. A person taking on the role must have flexibility in their professional life to make it work. I’ve dedicated full time because I believe that it is possible to set up a framework for success moving forward.
What advice would you give women wanting to do what you do?
Do it. Don’t be intimidated, and keep reaching out because there are people who will give you the support that you need. Don’t worry about appearing to have all the answers – no one does. The more questions you ask, in addition to broadening your understanding, you will realise that you have far more information than you thought. Sometimes your ‘shortcomings’ are what open doors, so don’t hold yourself back because you don’t feel ready. Remember the people whom you serve, listen to them – they will guide you. Be true to yourself. Your ‘why’ may change, keep exploring it and realigning.
What advice would you like to give the 25-year-old you?
Make good substitutions.
What hopes do you have for the women working in the sport business industry in the future?
One of the reasons that women are making meaningful contributions with widespread impact is that we are doing it out of passion. We have goals that are bigger than ourselves. My hope is that we maintain and build on that as we become equally and fairly compensated for our work. Yes; money.