As a true pioneer in female refereeing in judo, Diane Couture is the first recipient of Judo Canada’s Contribution to the Advancement of Gender Equity Award.
A total of four individuals who have contributed to advancing the cause have been recognized by Judo Canada’s Gender Equity Committee, formerly known as the Women’s Committee.
“It’s important for us to honour the work of these people, who in many cases have carved out their own paths and have remained committed to paving the way for others. It’s important for us to thank them and highlight their valuable work,” stated Marie-Hélène Chisholm, High Performance Manager at Judo Canada.
Couture perfectly represents the important role played by these ambassadors, who do everything they can to support gender equity. Over the years, she has set up various programs to further women’s officiating in Quebec and Canada.
“It’s always nice to receive an award like this one and it motivates me to pursue my work,” noted Couture. “However, it’s not my main goal. What I find most important, and what I really like to see, is female referees developing their skills and moving forward.”
Rich in experience
Diane Couture first ventured into the world of judo at age 16, when she wished to start practicing a combat sport. After winning two medals at the Canadian Championships, she began officiating at the age of 18. She has remained in the profession ever since, moving up through the ranks to the international level. “I always knew I’d be guided by my passion, and my passion is judo. I moved up one step at a time until I made it to the top.”
Couture’s résumé can most aptly be described as extensive. She has participated in numerous Canadian Championships and World Championships, as well as the Athens Paralympic Games in 2004. Her last competition was the Belgrade Summer Universiade in Serbia in 2009.
After having distinguished herself in the profession for approximately twenty years, Couture wished to share her experience and coach future female referees. “I couldn’t keep all my experience to myself. At the international level, you sometimes have to manage difficult situations, and it’s important for us as women to stand our ground. I did it pretty well, and I wanted to pass on what I knew to other referees so that they could follow in my footsteps, so to speak.”
After attending the first international seminar for women in the early 2000s, Couture decided to offer a similar type of event, but on a smaller scale, and to incorporate a bonding aspect that is much appreciated by participants. She also offered internships and other activities to assist in the development of referees. Today, she remains in contact with approximately 15 female referees in Quebec, who all work at different levels and who therefore need different types of guidance.
“I’ve put a lot of time into this profession, but not everyone can or wants to do this. It requires a lot of flexibility, it depends on each person’s priorities, so I have to adapt to each situation and work on a case-by-case basis,” she explained.
Supporting the next generation
As a mother of two children, Couture opened a judo club in Saint-Gervais-de-Bellechasse in 1987 and ran it for 15 years. She then became technical director at the Club de judo de Lévis, a position she still holds fifteen years later, in addition to pursuing her involvement at the national level.
All her work has led to solid results over the last decade, both in terms of quantity and quality, as the number of female judo referees in Quebec has tripled since 2010.
Almost 50 years after discovering judo, Couture is as passionate about it as ever. She believes there will always be work to do, but she doesn’t intend to slow down. She has already approached a number of women in five regions of Quebec to help develop the next generation of female referees.
Her contributions deserve to be recognized, and will undoubtedly inspire many female judo referees to continue to grow in the profession.