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'Leadership comes in all shapes and sizes': Insights from Alison Lyons for aspiring sports leaders

View all · 10 Mar 2023 · revolutioniseSPORT

Alison Lyons is the CEO of Hockey Queensland and Deputy Chair of QSport, partners of revolutioniseSPORT, and we recently had the chance to sit down with her for a Q&A interview as part of our series focusing on #WomenWhoLead in the Australian sports landscape.

Alison is particularly passionate about the game of hockey and highlighted several key initiatives the state organisation has championed in the inclusion space.

She is excited about the future and the opportunities that lie ahead, particularly with the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games on the horizon, and is eager to see how revolutioniseSPORT will increase efficiencies and manage gender representation in the lead-up to the Queensland-based games.

During our conversation on International Women’s Day, Alison shared some valuable insights about the work that Hockey Queensland does, the misconceptions about women in leadership roles in the sport industry and her top tips for aspiring leaders.


Tell us more about Hockey Queensland, what you do and what you love most about it.

Hockey Queensland is the governing body for Field and Indoor hockey in Queensland. We support Associations from Port Douglas, out to Mt Isa and down to the Tweed border. Hockey Qld also supports state teams to compete in Nationals and for players and officials to progress along the Hockey Australia performance pathway. 

What I love most about hockey is seeing players and officials achieve their goals. My favourite time of year is our Hockey One event which is the national competition. I am the Brisbane Blaze team’s number-one fan! 


What are some initiatives Hockey Queensland has championed in the inclusion space that should have more recognition? Are there any initiatives to come? 

Hockey has been an inclusive sport for 100 years. Women and men have always had equal representation playing hockey and it has been a well-known family-friendly sport. We are often overlooked for that as the focus is often on male-dominated sports that are only now welcoming women to the game. Hockey Qld has recognised that we need to do more for inclusion and diversity though and last year we launched our Inclusion and Diversity strategy.

Some of the areas we are really eager to make changes are increasing the number of female high-performance coaches, improving umpire diversity across gendered championships, and more women and girls and umpiring boys and men’s games and vice versa. Along with doing more to raise the profile of our LGBTQI+ community. 


Are there any persistent misconceptions about women in leadership positions in the sport industry? Have you encountered any experiences that prove these misconceptions wrong? 

There is a misconception that women get a little too emotional, but in reality, both genders invest a lot of emotion in sport. I am yet to be in a sporting meeting where the word “passionate” hasn’t been used - regardless of gender. 


What are your top tips for women looking for a leadership role?

  • Leadership comes in all shapes and sizes. Leading up is just as important as leading down, so regardless of your position, you can show leadership.
  • Trust the team around you and show them that you trust them. Building a supportive culture will always get results.
  • Remember, you will never be able to please everyone, so don’t make decisions that way.
  • Make decisions informed by evidence, it's the best way to justify them. 


Tell us more about revolutioniseSPORT, how it has assisted you in your roles at HQ and QSport and what do you love most about it.

revolutioniseSPORT has been a game changer for Hockey Qld. The system has provided us with data we can confidently use to make decisions. It has also increased efficiencies for our office and volunteers.  As a board member for QSport, we are just scratching the surface of what the system can offer. As part of the new QSport strategy, we will be enhancing the event registration and finance tools through revSPORT to make interactions seamless for our members. 


What are some ways, revolutioniseSPORT has assisted your organisation in improving and managing gender representation? 

It is extremely easy to view gender representation. All I need to do is check the stats daily simply by viewing the dashboard. Additionally, when I am reporting on the distribution of gender across officiating on different games and championships the reports are easy to run. 


What is a significant challenge you have overcome?

The management of COVID-19 has to be one of the biggest challenges I have faced. COVID-19 was just so relentless and information was constantly changing.  From a QSport perspective, it was a massive effort to get the Industry Plans prepared that allowed all sports in Queensland to return to play. It required a lot of consultation to ensure we had covered the needs of all sports in line with the Chief Health Officer's restrictions. We were proudly one of the first industries to have our plans approved. 


What excites you about the future?

The Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games! What an opportunity for Australian Sport and for leaders of my generation to have an influence on shaping a strong sporting industry and greater participation because of it. I am really looking forward to what the next 9 years will bring, along with the actual event. 


Tell us about your career journey to date.

My journey is not typical; I actually started my career in sport running Gymnastics Clubs overseas. I ran a gym franchise called The Little Gym in Kuwait and in Toronto Canada. I loved that job. It was so much fun and I got to see the benefits that teaching fundamental movement through gymnastics could bring to all children. 

When I moved back to Australia I did a small stint with Cricket Australia working for Cricket Queensland in a Participation Officer role, however, I found it difficult to teach Prep kids how to bowl without teaching them how to do a cartwheel first. So when my role came up at Gymnastics Victoria (GV), I made the move to Melbourne. 

I was with GV for 7 years and I worked my way from Participation Coordinator to General Manager and a 2iC role. I absolutely loved the work I did with GV and the team we built, we achieved a lot but I was ready to take the next step in my career. So, after returning to University for a stint, I applied for the Hockey Queensland CEO role in 2019 and here I am today. 


How do you approach your work and is there a specific mindset you need to be in to achieve this?

I am a strategist and develop strategies embedded into operations that are measurable so we can track progress.  I also like to think I am considerate but not too much that it prevents action. There is no particular mindset, I like to get things done and tick things off the list and have a sense of achievement at the end of the day. 


Thank you, Alison, for sharing! To know more about #WomenWhoLead sports in Australia, make sure to stay tuned for more spotlights! 

Missed our previous spotlights? Check out our media page today!