Indigenous workshop aims to make sports more inclusive

A specialized coach's workshop at the University of Windsor this weekend will focus on the needs of Indigenous athletes. 

The Aboriginal Coaching Module is a workshop through the National Coaching Certification Program. It's designed with the idea that every athlete is different and making sports an inclusive and safe space for Indigenous athletes is something every coach should do.

Vicky Paraschak is part of the team that received funding to put together the nine-hour workshop that includes holistic coaching approaches, racism and wellness for Indigenous athletes.

Paraschak, a professor in the Kinesiology department at the University of Windsor, says the training is provided by leaders with first-hand experience including Master Learning Facilitator Greg Henhawk from Six Nations.

"It's very engaging," said Paraschak. "Nine hours goes by and you can't believe it. The focus on the holistic approach looks at the cultural and spiritual approach individuals might take."

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission report pushes schools to bring in more Indigenous-related curriculum, but Paraschak says the Kinesiology department was struggling to come up with how to do that. She says this workshop is one way.

"I would love to see all coaches in the Windsor-Essex area take it," said Paraschak. "This is an inclusive approach to Indigenous in sport."

Listen to the full interview on Windsor Morning:

Angel Renaud is attending the workshop for the first time. She's an educator and athlete and her Indigenous heritage is Odawa and Ojibwe. She says coaches are sometimes afraid to say the wrong thing.

"They might have difficult finding or interpreting different resources ... they might not know how to approach the subject," said Renaud. "Having that background of what an Indigenous person is going through would be more suited to [that conversation]."

Renaud has played basketball, boxed and helped coached lacrosse — but she's never had an Indigenous coach. She thinks anyone could benefit from the workshop.

"Indigenous athletes aren't seeing themselves portrayed in the media, or even portrayed in a positive light," said Renaud. "Knowing that coach is now knowledgeable of what that athlete faces ... those techniques and understanding values in Indigenous cultures [is helpful]."

Renaud says she's looking forward to hearing what other people have experienced — and expanding her own knowledge base — at the weekend workshop. 

Not all workshop participants are Indigenous — or coaches — but Paraschak says the people who have taken the course in the past say it gives them an "approach toward life." 

Paraschak says the department would love to see Windsor be seen as a place that cares about Indigenous coaching.