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Sport as a Platform for Resilience
Sport is a powerful platform to support First Nations health, education, behaviours and employability. It is a mechanism for social impact, fostering engagement in the school community, cultural pride and self-worth. Building upon a rich history of sport and physical activity in First Nations communities across Alberta, this work offers a strengths-based approach to resiliency and a whole-child approach to learning in First Nations schools.
Currently, sport is often only offered sporadically in many communities and has students engaged only through certain times of the school year. Once tournament opportunities end, students disengage, do not finish school and fail to graduate. Further, the current sport model is not engaging all youth, particularly female students. Sport can be a motivating factor to keep youth involved with school through social engagement, the development of character, team camaraderie and a positive activity away from drugs and alcohol within the community.
We work in a variety of ways to strengthen the impact of sport on Indigenous students and communities.
BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS TO SPORT PARTICIPATION
We work with funders, tribal agencies and governments, and provincial and national sport organizations to offer professional coach training, community coaching clinics, officiating training, and solutions to transportation barriers.
CREATING A CULTURE OF PHYSICAL LITERACY FOR ALL STUDENTS
Without a background in sport or physical activity, it is hard to "break into" sport for the first time, so community sport can sometimes only include the same group of students year to year and sport after sport. Creating fun, non-competitive opportunities for students to be active in creative and engaging ways dismantles fear and builds confidence and skills for students to be active for life. Our strategy includes raining school staff to play fun movement games as "brain boosts" and build activity-based learning into the school day; sharing games and weekend play ideas with families through parent engagement activities; and partnering with sport and recreation programs to teach inclusive and adaptive strategies to include all students.
NETWORKS AND SUPPORT FOR PHYSICAL EDUCATION TEACHERS AND COMMUNITY COACHES
The athletic directors driving much of this work are strong voices for the resilience of youth in their communities. Initial meetings with these champions have identified the following areas to address and build capacity: mentorship; reducing barriers to participation; strengthened student voice; more play opportunities; and community engagement. Part of the success of this work so far has been creating and supporting networks for physical ed teachers, athletic directors and community’s coaches to connect, share successes, brainstorm solutions to common challenges, and organize co-run events. For example, the Treaty 6 Athletics Network has been running for over 10 years and offers more than 22 sporting opportunities for their 10 schools every year! We also run a telephone-based network for any school leaders from First Nations School Authorities to connect and learn from one another. (link to RS Schools Network).
FUN EVENTS TO CONNECT COMMUNITIES
In the 2018/19 school year, Ever Active Schools held multiple events to bring together many diverse communities through the love of sport:
- The 3rd annual Tri-Treaty Track Meet, bringing almost 400 Indigenous students from 22 First Nations school communities to compete in a fun and supportive environment.
- Winter Traditional Games tournaments for over 1000 Indigenous students in Treaty 7 at Winsport, Treaty 6 at Mother Earth Children's Charter School, and Treaty 8 in Loon River.
- The first annual 3 on 3 basketball tournament bringing together 12 northern First Nations communities, partnering with Kee TasKee Now Tribal Council Education Authority and hosted by the town of High Prairie. Word of the tournament reached all corners of the country, attracting coaches’ attention to the talent of two young boys from Atikameg First Nation, who are now competing on a Canadian basketball team in an exposure tournament in Las Vegas!