Sometimes it’s best to trust your mom, Tom Wright says.
The former CFL commissioner, who now serves as director of UFC operations in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, delivered a humour-based, life-affirming message to the eighth annual Power Breakfast in Prince Albert on Tuesday morning. Proceeds from the event go to Special Olympics Saskatchewan and the Prince Albert Raiders education fund.
Wright’s 20-minute speech, which he broke up into three parts -- the CFL, life balance and lessons from mom -- focused on life themes.
Wright told a story about his mother’s reaction to his university girlfriend of two years breaking up with him over the phone.
Wright said he was shocked by the decision since the two had charted out their future together as gym teachers. His mother was ironing in the kitchen when he went to tell her.
“She doesn’t miss a stroke,” he remembered. “She goes ‘Dear, don’t worry. Doors are closed so that better ones open.’ Then she goes ‘In about a week, she’ll really regret that and you won’t.’
“For the first time in my life my mom was wrong. It took two days.”
His ex-girlfriend’s decision helped change his career trajectory. He decided to instead pursue the business of sport.
Wright says he’s been luck to spend his career in the business of sport, with jobs in the CFL and UFC, along with sporting goods giants Adidas and Salomon.
Along the journey, he said it’s important to ultimately be yourself.
Wright points to the CFL’s ill-fated American expansion between 1993-95 as an example of losing touch with your core.
“The interesting lesson from that was that in trying to be that which they were not, they forgot who they were,” said Wright, who led the league from 2002 to 2006. “The CFL forgot what its roots were. The CFL forgot to be proud of who they were.”
He said it’s a lesson that transfers easily to people.
“There’s one thing that I’m better at than anyone in the world … and that’s being me,” he said. “Nobody can be me better than I can.”
He said that you have to find balance with family, friends, work, your health and the community.
The Torontonian sits on the national board of Special Olympics. He’s a firm believer in the benefits of serving as a volunteer.
“It’s really, really important to have that balance in your life and to make sure that community is a fundamental part of it,” Wright said. “You see it in so many different ways when you start to work with Special Olympics.”
He noted that there are now four million Special Olympics athletes around the world, with 35,000 in Canada and 1,500 in Saskatchewan. In this province alone, there are 700 Special O volunteers.
He said that there were few opportunities for the intellectually disabled. The Special Olympics helped usher in necessary change.
He pointed to local Special Olympian Michael Banks, who introduced him, and members of the Saskatoon-based floor hockey team that recently won gold and who were in attendance as an example.
“Forty years ago, doors for those guys and guys like Mike were shut,” he said. “They were closed with a lock on it. Now those doors are wide open and you’re seeing … what they’re capable of doing …
“They’re capable of doing so many great things.”
For a story on Wright’s work in the UFC, see the sports section.