Sport has always been a part of Kathy Newman’s life, providing many opportunities for personal growth and for sharing her passion for sport with others. She has worked tirelessly for more than three decades to increase the awareness of athletes with a disability worldwide, and wheelchair sport in Canada would not be the same without her.
A recognized leader in sport for athletes with a disability nationally and internationally, she was the executive director for BC Wheelchair Sports Association for 25 years where she brought a visionary and innovative approach to marketing and fundraising, event planning, strategic planning, governance management and policy development.
Among her many accomplishments is being instrumental in bringing a number of groundbreaking events to Canada including the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships and inaugural Women’s U25 World Wheelchair Basketball Championships. The wheelchair rugby worlds, for which she was co-chair, set records in attendance and merchandise sales at the time and also brought webcasting to its fans. It is still considered one of the most successful and highest quality international wheelchair rugby events ever hosted.
She also was a key leader in organizing the 2004 Canada Cup, the international wheelchair rugby tournament which features eight of the top teams in the world. The tournament is still played today, every two years, and is a highly-anticipated event on the calendar.
Her efforts and influence also helped establish the Bridging the Gap program, which introduces people with disabilities to wheelchair sports like basketball, tennis, and rugby. It started in her home province of B.C. and was then expanded across the country. The program has introduced so many people to Para sport, including athletes who would ultimately become Paralympians.
Newman has been aptly recognized in the Canadian sporting community many times for her significant contributions.
In 2006, she was named to the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity’s (CAAWS) Women of Influence list. She was also awarded the “In Her Footsteps” award, which recognizes significant contributions by women to girls and women in sport in 2010.
In 2012, Newman received the Daryl Thompson Award for lifetime achievement thanks to her more than 30 years of leadership and advocacy in disability sport. Sport BC presents the award annually to a British Columbian who has contributed to sport in an extraordinary way over an extended period of time. Past winners include Rick Hansen (1986) and Terry Fox (1980).
Coaches B.C. also offers the Kathy Newman Adaptive Sport Coach Grant to assist with the education, professional development, training and/or certification of coaches who work with athletes with disabilities.
A thoroughly respected leader and administrator, Newman’s influence on the development of Para sport hits all regions – local, provincial, national, and international. She has tirelessly worked to make sport more accessible for people with disabilities, and her involvement – whether it be developing or enhancing programming, hosting events, recruiting new athletes, advocating for more resources, or a number of other contributions – has had an immeasurable impact on the Paralympic Movement in Canada.
Newman remains a member of the Board of Directors of both Wheelchair Rugby Canada and Wheelchair Basketball Canada today, and is also the chair of the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation’s Competitions Committee.