by Ann Dodge, MPE
The first participants in the Black and Indigenous Coach Mentorship Program (BICMP) recently completed the training envisioned just over two years ago by co-founders Tex Marshall and Mark Smith.
During the Atlantic Coaches Conference this past April in Halifax, 19 coaches were presented with certificates to signify the important accomplishment.
Over an 18-month period, mentor coaches who coach at the community, Canada Games, university and international levels were paired with mentees from various sports. Through monthly online or face-to-face sessions, the mentees connected with their mentors — discussing issues, challenges or questions that arose through their coaching. Many issues were resolved through speaking with a more experienced coach.
A formal curriculum was created for the program, and the mentors and mentees met with experts in various areas: leadership, mental skills training, healthy fuelling for athletes, having courageous conversations, developing a coaching philosophy, along with other topics that enhanced the participating coaches’ education. The mentees were encouraged to enroll in National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) courses to further enhance their knowledge and professional development.
During the first face-to-face session in October 2020, a very short time passed before the 19 mentees and eight mentors found common ground to discuss issues, challenges, high points and satisfaction related to their coaching experiences. A number of the participants mentioned the “safe space” that existed for sharing perspectives that seldom exists for them. Mentees talked and mentors listened. Presenters shared their content and enlightening conversation emerged.
One could only sit and listen with both interest and concern with some of the comments raised —comments about the lack of funding for many programs for Black and Indigenous youth, the distances young people have to travel to participate in their sport, the bias that often caused the athletes to remain in sports deemed “appropriate” or discouraged them from trying other sports based on race or history, and the financial barriers that often put sport opportunities out of reach.
Sport is seen as a universally accessible activity, a positive space for youth to develop life skills — leadership, teamwork, commitment and tenacity, and for those who can access it, many times that is the case. But do we consider the barriers that some people in our communities face?
Programs like the BICMP are shining a light on not only who is playing sport but also on those who find sport less than welcoming or inaccessible.
Developing leaders from Black and Indigenous communities in our province can help open doors for youth. These mentees can become coaches and mentors and serve as positive examples for the next generation of Nova Scotia athletes who get to play sport at both a community and elite level.
Congratulations to the inaugural graduates of the BICMP!
Ann Dodge is a co-lead and mentor for the BICMP and is a faculty member in the kinesiology program at Acadia University. For more information on the BICMP please visit: cscatlantic.ca/nova-scotian-black-and-indigenous-coach-mentorship-program.