Field hockey is one of the most popular sports on the planet, currently being played in over 100 countries worldwide, and one of its most exciting areas of growth is in Canada. It tends to attract newcomers who were initially introduced to the sport elsewhere. First generation Canadians, the children of these newcomers, learn about it from their parents. Because of that, the current Team Canada consists of a diverse cast of athletes with ties to countries from all over the world. If you ask team captain Mark Pearson, he’ll tell you that’s one of the keys to the team’s strength.
“We have now created history, qualifying for back to back Olympic Games, and the core group of guys we’ve come up with is stronger than ever before. We have 10 or 11 players who are first generation Canadians whose parents came from countries where field hockey is more popular, and that gives our team a unique flavour,” Pearson told Sport for Life.
“We’re ready to be dragon slayers.”
The main thing Pearson wants to share is how the radically different backgrounds of his teammates has led to a uniquely magical cross-cultural cooperation.
“Our diversity is our strength. If you look at other nations, everyone on their team looks the same, whereas we’ve got Indo-Canadians, Asian-Canadians and players from all kinds of other cultures. It really teaches us to respect other cultures, like if maybe we’re competing in India and the guys from there make it feel like a second home. It brings us closer to the world in a global context,” he said.
Diversity is the focus of Sport for Life’s new e-learning resource "Welcome to Canada: Engaging Newcomers in Sport and Physical Activity". Designed to promote inclusion, the course will showcase positive examples from the sport and physical activity ecosystem while outlining how sport organizations can update and improve their systems to encourage engagement from a larger population base.
Now that the e-learning course is available on Sport for Life’s website, Sport for Life CEO Richard Way is excited to see the ways inclusion can be mobilized in our country. Stories like that of the Canadian Men’s National Field Hockey team can inspire other sport organizations to foster diversity within their own ranks. While some language or cultural challenges may arise during the process, he believes having a multicultural element will ultimately benefit everyone.
“Diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion are non-negotiable, yes, but sometimes we forget that bringing in participants from different backgrounds is actually a huge opportunity for learning. A Canadian team with newcomers has a variety of perspectives, technical and tactical approaches that come from welcoming participants from other countries,” said Way.
“The men’s Team Canada field hockey team is just one example of how bringing together players from disparate backgrounds can lead to triumph.”