All stories have an end, even the best ones. On August 30th, Francine Latreille, Accounting, Grading and Membership Services Coordinator for Judo Canada, will start a well-deserved retirement after 13 years with the organization. She will have left her mark with her integrity, her versatility and, above all, her unique and endearing personality.
Looking for a fresh start after years of working in a law firm, Ms. Latreille joined the Judo Canada team in the fall of 2009. Excited about pursuing a career in sport, the Ottawan quickly realized that there would be many challenges ahead.
“For me, anything was going to be better than law! I had an interest in sports, but I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into and I realized very quickly that I had a lot of cleaning up to do,” she says between laughs on the phone.
“All the documents were on paper and there was no system to keep track of them,” she continues. “It was all scattered around; we had to organize it all and create an online system to make it easier for us and our members.”
The countless hours, even weeks, spent tidying up never dampened Latreille’s spirits, and because of her efficiency and perfectionism, she was immediately given new responsibilities in areas of the organization, including member services and accounting.
“There were huge changes in the way we did things, but also in the staff,” she says. “I was thrown into a lot of projects and was learning as I went along to help or facilitate as much as possible. Eventually, we were able to get to a system that was functional and pretty much all online.”
A Reinvigorated Federation
The many changes have not been in vain and have allowed the federation to embark on another phase of its evolution, this time with the goal of making it shine across the country. Once again, Francine Latreille found herself at the heart of the operation, which was first and foremost about serving members.
“In many provinces, the clubs didn’t even know we existed, and they had no idea why I was calling,” she says. “At some point, we had to be more and more present in our clubs, to get closer to our athletes and to continue to grow our membership.”
To do this, Ms. Latreille made it her duty to establish contact with all the clubs in Canada, in addition to highlighting the successes of the country’s judokas, no matter how big or small.
“All accomplishments are important, from the smallest to the biggest,” she says. “Whether it’s a first belt for a young person just starting out or a black belt for an older athlete, for them, it’s big! We needed to advocate and put our athletes at all levels on the map and that’s what we did by celebrating all their victories.”
A few years later, we must admit that the process has worked. With more than 22,000 members and a highly qualified team, Judo Canada is healthier than ever and can aspire to even more.
“This is one of my proudest accomplishments,” says Latreille. “Now I get emails from all over for assistance at the national level. We bring ideas, we collaborate with all our provinces, and we increase participation everywhere. We are an open book and treat everyone the same.”
Francine Latreille will certainly leave large shoes to fill at Judo Canada. Her knowledge, her straightforwardness and her spirit of collaboration have been great assets for the federation, which will lose an essential member of its organization.
“In the end, I was a resource person for just about everything and I would help out on any given day. Even if it rang on the weekend, I answered, because it was important to me to help people. If someone calls, it’s because they have a need,” she says, adding “it is important to always have integrity.”
“I’ve been accused of creating a monster,” she jokes. “To me, member service is like after-sales service. If you buy a car and it has problems and they don’t help you, it doesn’t work. You have to get it right quickly to keep the trust and protect our integrity. That’s why I’ve been so dedicated.”
So, it’s with a sense of accomplishment and fond memories that the 63-year-old is preparing for a retirement that promises to be just as busy.
“I really loved my job, and my fondest memory will be growing as a person over the years. I will miss it for sure, but I will enjoy every moment to the fullest. I have my health and great opportunities to travel, so now is the time to enjoy it. After all, that’s what wealth is all about,” she concludes wisely.