The Black and Indigenous Coach Mentorship Program was launched in September and there are currently four Tigers coaches taking part in the program.
A two-year project aimed at recruiting and supporting Black and Indigenous coaches, the program includes face-to-face workshops and virtual sessions, one-on-one guidance and support from experienced coaches and also provides National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) training for participants. Led by Mark Smith, Sport Nova Scotia’s director of sport, the goal is to provide an inclusive and supportive learning environment for new and aspiring coaches to build confidence and competence to become valued leaders in their community and throughout the provincial sport system.
High Performance Manager and women’s soccer head coach Cindy Tye is serving as a mentor for a number of aspiring coaches.
“I’m honoured to be part of the program,” says Tye. “As with anything, with diversity in thought and background comes different perspectives and ideas.”
Before new restrictions were put in place, mentors and mentees spent a weekend together in October to kick things off. One of the first exercises had everyone share a bit of their background and why it was important for them to take part in the program.
“Getting the chance to listen to everyone's story was very powerful for me,” says Tye.” Sport has played a critical role in my development both personally and professionally. It has provided opportunity and experiences I would have never gotten the chance to experience if not for my involvement and with support from other along the way. Hearing the same story line from each person; that sport was impactful to the point of life-changing; that they wanted to be part of something that helped create a supportive network; that they wanted to be better equipped to help others have positive experiences through sport, helped break down some walls in recognizing we were all there for similar reasons.”
Men’s volleyball head coach Dan Ota is also serving as a mentor coach.
“The program has brought together exceptional coaches who work at all levels and in many sports,” says the 21-year Tigers veteran. “The opportunity to learn from and contribute to this diverse group has been invaluable, and I have little doubt that this will make me a better coach.”
Anton Berry, currently an assistant coach and soon to be interim head coach of the women’s basketball team is participating in the program as a mentee.
“I think this program is a fantastic opportunity for Black and Indigenous coaches to come together to not only improve our coaching skills and leadership abilities, but to also create networking opportunities that will improve necessities such as accessibility to future professional development in our respective sports,” says Berry.
“I’m very fortunate to have Coach Mark Smith as a mentor,” he continues. “To have someone so experienced, knowledgeable, and caring provide me with guidance and mentorship will undoubtedly help me improve and become a better coach and future mentor.”
At this stage, mentor coaches are spending time building relationships with their mentees through Zoom calls, observing them in training environments (where permitted), etc. The pandemic is making it a bit challenging but there are a number of upcoming virtual presentations that will provide an opportunity for additional sharing and listening amongst all participants.
Former Tigers swimmer and current assistant coach/assistant strength and conditioning coach Keishia Mills is also participating in the program as a mentee.
“It’s been an enlightening experience so far,” she says. “The tutelage and dialogue with other mentees have already challenged my skills and way of thinking in such a short amount of time. It’s already helped me to become a more effective communicator and strengthen my coach-athlete relationships.”
Ota couldn’t agree more.
“This program is giving me insight of how systemic racism is impacting coaches and athletes in Black and Indigenous communities in our province. I am extremely grateful for the welcoming environment that my fellow coaches have provided me with, and I embrace the challenge of making a positive impact through this program.”
While the program is still in its infancy, Berry and Tye are already looking ahead to its future.
“I hope this program creates a support system, helps to broaden perspectives, and open doors for mentees to feel confident walking through when reaching for the next opportunity,” says Tye. “Creating that support and an environment to build that confidence helps them when they are in their own sport environments. It means they are better for the young people in front of them and in turn a bigger platform for future leaders in communities.”
“I believe that this program has the potential to make a tremendous impact moving forward,” adds Berry. “If the current model for the program can eventually be implemented at the community and grassroots levels, while also being facilitated by mentors within their own community, I think the growth of sport and promotion of health and wellness is unlimited.”
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