Creating the stepping stones to sport participation

This content was originally published in the resource Aboriginal Communities: Active for Life. This resource aims to help aboriginal children and youth across the country enjoy long, healthy, happy, and good lives. This work seeks to address the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, and serves as a tool for addressing fundamental rights of Indigenous Peoples—the right to health, the right to education, the right to culture, and the right to play.

Written as a first-person narrative, the reader follows the stories of Taylor, a fictional Aboriginal sport leader. All characters are fictional, but represent the voices of many of the people that we have heard from across the country throughout the development of this resource.

My Name Is Taylor

I teach at the local school and I also coach and help run drop-in gym nights at the community centre. The other day my friends and I were discussing our most memorable moments in sport and physical activity. For some, it was a coach who took the time to get to know them; for others it was the friends they made, the new experiences they had, the opportunity to have fun, the traditional lessons they were taught, the reward of hard work resulting in a trophy, or simply a tournament weekend that they will never forget.

I was fortunate to have had caring parents, Elders, coaches, and teachers who allowed me to develop a love for sport and physical activity from a young age. Through sport and activity, I came to realize that it was about more than just sweating, practicing skills, and competing for trophies. For me, sport and activity became a source of confidence, lifelong friendships, role models, and practical life skills.

When I left sports and started working at the school, I began to see all of life as an athletic event. Whether it is demonstrating a skill while coaching, playing with the kids, or going out on the land, being active allows me to participate fully in life. Using my experience and this insight, I try to plan and deliver the best sport programs and opportunities that I can within my community.

Sport and activity can produce many positive outcomes when it is valued, planned, and delivered thoughtfully by caring and trained adults. I am heartened to learn that Aboriginal communities across the country are bringing people together to discuss how to support our community members in becoming Active for Life. I am honoured to have been asked to share my learnings to help others in this process.

Even though I am not an expert in sport or physical activity, I have learned as a volunteer coach, parent, and supervisor that the most important thing is to create a positive environment for the participants.

For example, I look at my brother Howard. He is a certified hockey coach with a lot of knowledge, and he has always demanded perfection from his players. He knows he is tough on them, but he feels this is what they need. It’s also the way he was coached. A few weeks ago, though, he attended a sport conference, and he went to a session about creating a positive coaching environment. Since then, he has reflected on his coaching style and he has decided to adjust his approach because he has noticed that some players have been skipping practices. Now he is trying to focus on what the kids are “doing right”, and he is making sure to let them know that they are doing a good job. Using a positive coaching strategy helps players feel more empowered, free, and engaged.¹ Although he has just started doing this, he is already noticing that they smile more, show up to practice more, and try harder at each practice and game. Howard feels good about the change, and he is excited to see how the team develops from here.

Looking at what he did with his team, I decided to ask the kids in my programs what they think makes a good coach or leader.

They said that a good coach or leader is someone who:

  • Treats them with respect
  • Encourages the team
  • Is a positive role model
  • Gives clear, consistent communication
  • Knows a lot about the sport
  • Allows mistakes, while staying positive
  • Listens and considers their opinions
  • The kids can talk to easily
  • Is nice and friendly
  • Gives compliments
  • Participates with the kids during practice
  • Jokes around

Their comments made me think about the things that make a great experience in sport and activity. I thought about other coaches and leaders who I know, and I collected a few of their stories.

>> Read the stories

>> Read the Aboriginal Communities: Active for Life resource

  1. Light, R.L. & Harvey, S. (2015). Positive pedagogy for sport coaching. Sport, Education and Society, 22(2): 271-287.