17226 Peter Nicol: A consummate professional in all aspects
By: Steph Ochej
Born and raised in Bathurst, New Brunswick, Peter Nicol didn’t have any plans growing up to attend military college. “I didn’t have any direct family members who were in the military, [so] I didn’t really know anything about it,” he explains. What the New Brunswick native did know about was taekwondo. By the time he left his hometown at the age of 19 he was a black stripe in the sport and assistant instructor at his home club, experiences which he credits with leading him to CMR in the fall of 1985.
While there he studied Military and Strategic Studies. CMR had been suggested to him in order to complete the prep year, but whereas some students complete the prep year and then move on to RMC, the young cadet really enjoyed life in Saint-Jean and decided to stay for the duration of his degree.
Understandably so— while at CMR, he built great friendships with his fellow cadets. “To me it’s the people—always knowing that regardless what time of day it was, I could go down the hall, or go over to the next block and find one of my buds,” he says fondly. On top of friendships, Nicol met his wife Ann Lavallée while studying at CMR, who was in the same class as him. “That’s definitely a highlight,” he adds.
On top of the relationships he gained, he built the foundations of his career through his learning experiences with the taekwondo team at CMR. In his prep year, there was a taekwondo club at the school and he became the club president in first term. In first year he helped the club attain intermural status. “It was a mixed group, it wasn’t just taekwondo. There was taekwondo, karate, and kung fu: so it was a martial arts intramural.” Eventually, after attaining his black belt and through hard work and dedication they were able to take the club to varsity status by his third year at CMR. “Finally we were able to participate with the Canadian Forces team selection, and the International Military Sports Council (CISM) program,” he explains. He considers the leadership opportunities he gained through his involvement with the club to be invaluable.
After graduating from CMR in 1990, Nicol was sent to Ottawa for his on-the-job training with the military police. After completing his Basic Security Officer course in May of 1991, he was posted again to Ottawa to work for D Secur Ops 4 (computer security). Then from 1994 to 1996, he worked with the Special Investigations Unit Headquarters in the capital.
Throughout the 1990s, Nicol competed with the CF CISM taekwondo team. Through that, he was able to travel to places like the United States, Korea, Germany, and Iran to compete in international military taekwondo competitions. His last competition was when the CF hosted the 1993 World Military Taekwondo Championships at RMC.
Then, in 1996, he decided to get out of the Forces as part of the Force Reduction Program (FRP). He was supposed to be out in August of 1996, but had his time extended when an opportunity came up in Valcartier, Québec. “The Canadian Forces was hosting the World Military Ski Championships in Valcartier, and they needed someone for the security side of the house,” the former military policeman says. He had his contract extended for 8 months to be the Base Security Officer and Security Advisor during the Championships.
The last weekend of the CISM Ski Championships, during an event, Nicol heard news that a position was opening in Kingston at RMC for a taekwondo coach. He applied and got the job with the Personnel Support Programs (PSP) organisation, which saw him in Kingston from 1997 to 2006. This made the transition from being in the military to joining civilian life quite easy for the ex-cadet. “It wasn’t that hard, going from the military to working with the military,” he observes. Around the time that he got out with the FRP was also the time that the CF removed the PERI branch, so with PSP “there were quite a variety of ex-PERIs that were involved, there were [other] ex-military that were involved, and there were civilians involved in this new organization. It created a great dynamic, and everybody brought different strengths to the group,” he says. While at RMC he once again had the opportunity to travel, coaching RMC athletes across the country (at Canadian Championships) and in Korea, Greece and Turkey (at CISM and FISU events).
In 2005, Nicol broke his leg in a bad landing while coaching taekwondo. While sitting in his office, cast on, he saw another job posting through PSP for the International Sports Coordinator with the Canadian Forces CISM program. This brought him back to Ottawa, and in 2008 his boss retired and he took over his position as manager of the CF CISM program, which saw him managing 14 sports teams. From 2009 to 2012, he became the Senior Sports Manager, which involved overseeing all of the CF Sports Programs—international, national, and the CF Sports Awards Program. While working in Ottawa, Nicol completed his Masters of Arts in Sports Management and obtained experience working with the CISM organization as a member of the CISM Sports Committee and assisting with working groups for the CISM strategic planning and policy re-write.
Today, Nicol is the CEO for Gymnastics Canada, an organisation which looks after all Canadian gymnastics from grassroots programs to the high performance components, including the national teams that participate in the Olympics. “If you look at our national teams, if you look at sport development, if you look at coaching education, event hosting—that all falls under Gymnastics Canada,” he elaborates.
As the CEO there are no typical days for Nicol. On any given day he can “be in the office; there can be travel involved—if we’re hosting events or if we’re attending events; there can be different meetings with some of our partners or with other sport groups with Sport Canada or with the Canadian Olympic Committee; there can be international components, such as dealing with the International Federation for Gymnastics—FIG. …Gymnastics is a very busy sport,” he says.
One of the really interesting aspects for him has been learning what an important sport gymnastics has been within the context of the military colleges. It was only after Nicol left Kingston that he learned that gymnastics has a historical and traditional role in military training, and that RMC itself had a very strong gymnastics program, historically. That, combined with his experiences with the CMR and CF taekwondo teams, on top of the teamwork and leadership skills that he picked up while at CMR, make it seem like every aspect of Nicol’s life has been leading him here, to this point. “It all works together. It’s all built off of those experiences,” he reflects.
Peter lives in Ottawa with Ann and their two children Ariane and Félix. As 2015 will be there 25 year reunion, they are both looking forward to catching up with their classmates at the reunions in Saint Jean and Kingston later this fall.