Black Canadian Coach Named 1 of 30 Most Influential Women in Canadian Sports

Toronto, ON: Lee Anna Osei, a Toronto born coach and founder of Canletes Sports and The Black Canadian Coaches Association (BCCA), was named 1 of 30 most influential women in Canadian sports by The Toronto Star in celebration of International Women’s Day 2021.

#ChooseToChallenge is the theme for International Women’s Day and Osei, known as “Coach Lee,” has been challenging the status quo for as long as she can recall. “Growing up as a first generation female in a West African household meant that sports was not encouraged or accepted. I was always used to being the odd person out. I wore my brothers hand-me-down clothes and was a major tomboy growing up and i often found myself playing basketball as my outlet. I credit God for helping me grow through different experiences and this has been me finding a way to pay it forward.”

The Toronto Star Top 5, 2008
Photo (The Star): From L to R: Whitney Ellenor, Janice Bartley, Nicholle McKenzie, Lee Anna Osei, Renelle Richmond

Lee Anna played her hoops at Eastern Commerce Collegiate Institute, known as a perennial basketball powerhouse located in Toronto that developed Canada’s 1st NBA All Star Jamal Magloire, and dozens of high level athletes and coaches. After playing NCAA Division 1 and Junior college basketball, Lee Anna Osei returned to Canada in 2012 and founded Canletes (Canadian Athletes), a marketing platform to provide consulting, marketing, skill development and events to prospective female basketball players in Ontario.

Kareem Griffin, a longtime Toronto coach and marketing specialist is the current Executive Director at Canletes. He recalls coaching Lee Anna in her years at Eastern: “Lee Anna has always been a determined individual when it comes to pursuing her goals. Coaching Lee Anna in her high school days, it was clear to me that would do special things that could effect a positive change in our community. So when she asked me to be the Executive Director for Canletes, I didn’t hesitate to jump on the opportunity- I believe in what Canletes represents for our community and how it’s changed the way Canada has viewed Canadian women’s basketball.”

Lee Anna Osei and former HS coach Kareem Griffin pose for picture at Canada Basketball’s Being There Banquet (2016).

After experiencing discrimination in her own sport experience, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and increased acts of racial injustices encouraged Lee Anna to formally incorporate The Black Canadian Coaches Association as a nonprofit organization with objectives to connect, empower and advance racial equity initiatives across the Canadian sports sector.

I am forever grateful to all the sport leaders – often men- I’ve had guide me over the years. I’ve also had a number female role models but many of whom were not leaders in our sport community, and I’d like to change that for the next generation.

Everything our teams at Canletes and the BCCA are trying to accomplish is tied to celebrating and achieving equity for diverse and underrepresented groups. We’ve got a long way to go, but it’s incredible to see how far we’ve come as a Canadian sport community.

On what it means to be selected as 1 of 30 most influential women in Canadian sports?

To learn more about The Star’s Top 30 Influential Canadian women feature read here:

Leadership Through Sport – We Are #StrongerTogether.