Susan Kitchen — Executive Director.
Susan is currently the Executive Director of the Coaches Association of Ontario. She led the organization through its formative years to become a credible, multi-sport organization that serves the coaching community and enjoys the confidence of three levels of government partners and a growing list of corporate partners. She has actively contributed to a national vision of building a stronger coaching system in Canada since 2002, serving also as a Board member on the Coaching Association of Canada from 2008-2013.
Susan currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada (SDRCC) and is one of 12 Board members appointed by the Federal Minister of Sport. She has served on the Rowan’s Law Advisory Committee for Concussion Safety which was successful in passing Legislation in Ontario. She also served for on the Minister’s Advisory Panel for the Ontario Government’s Sport Plan.
Susan has remained active in the sport of rowing for over 30 years. She is an NCCP trained rowing Coach, in able-bodied and Para, and an umpire. She volunteers at the Canadian Indoor Rowing Championships and chaired the organizing committee for indoor rowing at the 2017 Toronto Invictus Games. Susan has applied her knowledge and experience from sport to build an enduring and responsive team at the CAO. She recognizes the potential of a well synchronized crew pulling in one direction.
Contact Susan if you have an idea that empowers, enables or celebrates our greatest resources … our Coaches!
Jeremy Cross — Director, Coach Development
Sports: Basketball, Alpine Ski, Cross Country Ski, Freestyle Skiing, Snowboard, Biathlon, Bobsleigh/Skeleton, Field Hockey, Luge, Nordic Combined
Jeremy is currently coaching U14 Learn to Train and Train to Train stage athletes at Toronto Lords Basketball. Jeremy graduated from the University of Waterloo with a BA in Recreation after spending what seemed like a 5 year eternity of road trips working in various sports positions. Before joining the CAO, Jeremy interned with the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment corporation, the University of Waterloo Athletics, and the Orlando Magic in the Community and Government Relations Department, where he fine-tuned his own athletic abilities and developed his own professional work style and approach. Formally one of the Canadian Senior Men’s National Basketball team managers and was in that role from 2006-2016. Jeremy by nature is a point guard. He loves to get others involved, to set people up for success, to be crafty, strategize and execute the game plan, and throw sweeeet alley oops. For Jeremy, wins are good too, but having fun at what you’re doing is more important.
Contact Jeremy if you want to coach, are a coach, need a coach, but ultimately want to see athletes be the best people they can be.
Mercedes Watson — Manager, Coach & Partner Development
NCCP – Central Zone & Core Training for Coach Developers
Sports: Ice Hockey, Ball Hockey, Golf, Ringette, Speed Skating, Curling, Rugby, Football, Lacrosse
Mercedes is both an ice hockey and strength and conditioning coach, who received her Masters of Kinesiology from the University of British Columbia. A lover of all sports, Mercedes believes strongly in the importance of coach education, and is dedicated to helping other coaches improve their skills and capabilities. Her previous work experience involves coordinating camps for the City of Ottawa, and teaching at UBC and Brentwood College School. When not in the office, expect to find Mercedes skating or rock climbing.
Contact Mercedes for inquiries related to NCCP and coach education, National Coaches Week in Ontario, and Coach Developers.
Stuart McLaren — Coach & Partner Development
NCCP – East Zone, College/University and FMS High School Kit
Sports: Sailing, Rowing, Water Ski and Wakeboard, Canoe/Kayak, Soccer, 5 Pin Bowling, 10 Pin Bowling, Archery, Shooting, Fencing
Stuart is a certified sailing instructor and coach, with a diverse background in amateur sport that includes soccer, baseball and hockey. He also holds a black belt in IMGKA Karate. Stuart previously worked as a program coordinator for Sail Manitoba, a role which took him across the country, supporting the provincial sailing team at the Canada Summer Games. Stuart often takes on leadership roles in facilitating amateur sport events and programs; he has sat as a race director and board member for many provincial and national events. Stuart is extremely passionate about amateur sport and its potential to build community and personal growth. Stuart holds a BA in Conflict Resolution from the University of Winnipeg and is a practicing mediator. He loves meeting new people, getting involved in communities and being out on the water.
Brooke Leonardo — Communications Lead
NCCP – Central Zone Support and Home Study
Sports: Athletics, Cycling, Weightlifting, Karate, Taekwondo, Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Boxing, Wushu, Triathlon
Brooke is the CAO’s Communications and Events Lead and is passionate about endurance sport and personal fitness. Brooke’s education background combines her English Literature degree from U of T with a sport and event marketing post-graduate certificate from George Brown College, which speaks to her love of creative writing and communications along with sharing sport and physical activity with those around her. In her spare time, Brooke has completed numerous road and trail races up to the marathon and ultra-marathon distances, along with several half ironman triathlons and two Tough Mudders. She also loves lifting weights at the gym and is a Crossfit enthusiast.
Eric Belahov — Marketing & Community Partnership Coordinator
NCCP – North Zone and Remote Online Support
Sports: Tennis, Table Tennis, Squash, Badminton, Ontario Blind Sports, Ontario Cerebral Palsy Sports, Wheelchair Sports, Special Olympics, Raquetball
Eric was a competitive high-performance tennis player that turned coach. Eric received his Sport Management degree from Brock University and a post-graduate sport and event marketing certificate from George Brown College which speaks about his love for the business side of sports. He believes strongly in coach development and how coaches impact their community. Eric has volunteered and participated at many international events and he has seen the impact that these have on the host community. He loves playing all sports and travelling the world.
Contact Eric if you have any questions on CAO Partnerships and Experts Express program.
Eric McLoughlin — Events & Partner Development
NCCP – South Zone
Sports: Swimming, Baseball, Diving, Synchronized Swimming, Water Polo, Judo, Grappling, Jiu-Jitsu, Wrestling, Orienteering, Parachuting
Eric comes to the CAO with a wealth of knowledge and experience in coaching, community engagement and events within the sport, non-profit and corporate sectors. With a BA in Psychology and background in Sport Psychology from Laurentian University, Eric has coached swimming for over seven years working with athletes from ages four to eighteen at the regional, provincial and national levels. He also holds a post-graduate Event Management certificate from the International Festival and Events Society’s (IFEA) Gold Pinnacle award winning program at Niagara College and works hard to develop events, programs and projects that create lasting positive impressions. In his spare time he loves to swim, play baseball and connect with people who share a passion for what they love. Eric believes in staying positive, eating smart and dreaming big.
Sarah Khan — Community Impact Coordinator
NCCP – Central Zone Support
Sports: Equestrian, Gymnastics, Volleyball, Softball, Skating, Lawn Bowls, Ultimate, Team Handball
Sarah is the CAO’s Community Impact Coordinator and is passionate about team sports and promoting physical literacy. After completing her Psychology degree at Wilfrid Laurier University, Sarahattended George Brown College where she received her Sport & Event Marketing Post-Graduate Certificate, bringing together her enthusiasm for connecting and understanding others with her desire to help Canadians of all ages live more active lifestyles. Sarah is always keen to try new sports, and in her spare time you’ll likely find her at the gym, rock climbing, curling, playing rec-league softball and ultimate or just cheering on her favourite team!
Jessica Laranja — Signature Event Administration Assistant
Jessica is the CAO’s Signature Events Administration Assistant and received her Sport Media degree from Ryerson University. Jessica is very passionate about team sports and loves playing recreationally.
Jessica has volunteered at youth tournaments and major sporting events such as the Pan Am Games. She has worked with the North American Indigenous Games, Invictus Games, and Canadian Olympic Committee which helped her see the impact that sport has on communities and individuals. She strongly believes in living an active lifestyle and is constantly inspired by the volunteerism and dedication instilled within coaches.