Coaches are the most visible and influential leaders in sport. They shape the day-to-day lived experiences of participants and influence the growth and development of sport. They also have a responsibility to address and respond to the unique needs of women, girls and gender-diverse people in sport. 

We expect a lot from coaches across the country from ensuring the safety of participants, embarking on coaching education, keeping sport fun and generating results whether at a community or national level. So, when is a better time to say #ThanksCoach than during the National Coaches Week? 

Without coaches and sport leaders, there is no sport.  

It is as simple as that.  

We at Canadian Women & Sport have the opportunity to work with fantastic coaches and sport leaders, people who are making tangible and noticeable changes across the country. Here are a few of the coaches making a difference in the lives of women, girls and gender-diverse individuals in sport.  

Jess Tang | Wrestling | British Columbia | Coach & Canadian Women & Sport Program Facilitator   

What attracted you to get involved in coaching? 

JT: Mentorship is a core value of mine. I’ve been lucky enough throughout my life to have been positively impacted by mentors and coaches, who believed in me before I believed in myself. This ingrained in me a deep desire to give back and be that person for others. 

How has being involved in gender/cultural equity work as a coach impacted your athletes? 

JT: I have really valued my experience over the last year and a bit with Canadian Women & Sport as a Program Facilitator. My involvement and work in this position has meant that I feel more comfortable in applying a gender equity lens and intersectional feminist lens as a coach. This means being more thoughtful and intentional about the ways I engage with my athletes, the language I use and the policies I advocate for at a higher level. 

As we continue to move forward in the name of safe sport within our sporting community, gender equity plays such a key role in creating safe spaces for ALL athletes. When all athletes are safe to express themselves and are free of rigid gender narratives, including toxic masculinity, we will see better outcomes for athletes at all levels.   

What advice do you have for coaches in training when it comes to gender equity?   

JT: Don’t shy away from engaging in gender equity work. It can be intimidating and uncomfortable and that is a normal part of this process. It is uncomfortable and intimidating to unlearn and uncover our own biases, and to recognize the systemic barriers that exist in our society.  

Start small and take the learning into your own hands. Use the resources that are available through the Coaching Association of Canada and Canadian Women & Sport that offer training on gender equity. These are accessible entry points into understanding how gender equity can be applied to your coaching.  

Josh Read | Soccer | Ontario | Coach & Canadian Women & Sport Program Consultant

How has being involved in gender equity work as a coach impacted your athletes? 

JR: Continuously learning and engaging in equity work has increased my awareness of the challenges and disparities faced by individuals from marginalized gender and/or cultural groups.

My heightened awareness has led to a more empathetic and inclusive coaching approach. I am open with the athletes I coach about my own gender equity journey. I share the lessons I am learning, how I am purposefully applying these lessons and how they are helping me along my learning journey. I prioritize cultural competence, gaining a deeper understanding of different cultural norms, values and perspective. This has helped me create a more inclusive, joyful, and respective environment.   

In the next 5-10 years, how would you like to see the coaching landscape in Canada shift? 

JR: I would love to see an increased emphasis on women coaches at the grassroots level right through into the high-performance game. Developing specific coaching pathways for women that fosters mentorship and role models for those coming through. 

Additionally, I would like to see an increase in resources and support for newcomers to Canada to access sport. I believe we need heightened awareness for cultural competence and leverage the strengths and perspectives that culturally diverse individuals can bring to coaching. 

What advice do you have for coaches in training when it comes to gender equity? 

JR: Enjoy the journey. Gender equity is dynamic and ever changing/growing/developing. I would encourage everyone to be open and transparent with the athletes about their gender equity journey, comfort level and level of knowledge. The individuals, families and communities you engage with are the best educators so ask questions and seek feedback specifically around gender equity. I know this seems daunting (it was daunting to me at the beginning), but I was positively surprised at how much the athletes engaged in conversations around gender equity when I started asking questions. 

Symone Hunt | Multi-Sport | Newfoundland and Labrador | Coach & Fitness Instructor 

What has your coaching experience been like coaching women/girls/Indigenous youth? 

SH: Rewarding. I get to interact and create social connections and bonds with intersecting parts of my identity that were not strongly visible for me growing up. I get to meet so many heartwarming personalities of all ages from youth to elders.

I always leave a coaching event with new a perspective or understanding. I also feel great pride in knowing I am helping provide an opportunity to participate.   

How has being involved in gender/cultural equity work as a coach impacted your athletes? 

SH: Positively. People want to feel valuable. When opportunities are restricted to certain groups of people, it sends an unspoken message and people read between the lines: the society you live in does not value your participation. This feeling leads to a lesser chance of getting involved. When we are less likely to be involved in sport, we are less likely to be physically active, which we know reduces our quality of life in a multitude of ways. Healthy community members build healthy communities. 

The North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) are a great example of the impact sport can have on women and Indigenous people when you provide an opportunity to highlight groups that do not typically get visibility. The feedback from our athletes at NAIG strongly supports that the opportunity created a greater sense of pride in their identity after being surrounded by other likeminded individuals. They voiced hopefulness in staying  involved in sport as athletes, getting their community members involved and exploring   other options in sport such as University teams, nutrition and coaching. 

In your opinion, what are 2 or 3 important qualities that coaches today need to succeed at any level of sport? 

  1. SH: Always assume you do not have all the answers. Regularly consult the people you work with and seek to understand their perspective. Stay up to date with leading practices in research. The landscape of sport is always changing, and we need to stay agile and open to changing with it.  
  1. Fun is a priority. Don’t assume you know what is fun to your group. Ask them.  
  1. Create a sense of community and belonging. Make sure everyone involved feels they have a skill set that is valued and highlight what they contribute to the team. It does not even have to be sport specific. Got a kid that cannot dribble the ball or score, but makes the whole team smile and laugh? That is value. Nurture it!  

Opportunities for Coaches during National Coaches Week 2023 

Coaches, take advantage of the following resources available to you to continue to build better sport: 

National Coaches Week 2023

Coaches are the most visible and influential leaders in sport. They shape the day-to-day lived experiences of participants and influence the growth and development of sport. They also have a responsibility to address and respond to the unique needs of women, girls and gender-diverse people in sport.  We expect a lot from coaches across the […]

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Back to School & Back to Sport

While September marks a return to school and sports, not everyone has this on their mind, especially this year. We are aware that life feels and looks different for many people affected by the wildfires in the Northwest Territories and British Columbia. Thousands have been displaced from their families, traditional lands and homes. If you’re looking for ways […]

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Open Call – DEI Committee Members 

Canadian Women & Sport is currently seeking three external members to join our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee.   Join us as we work to ensure the organization’s core values of equity and inclusivity are fully reflected in our governance, operations, and programming.  Committee members will:  The open call to submit interest for the committee […]

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50 More Sport Organizations Commit to Upping Their Gender Equity Game with the Same Game Challenge

Canadian Women & Sport and Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities (Jumpstart) are proud to announce the 50 sport and recreation organizations participating in the second cohort of the Same Game Challenge, taking place from July 2023 to January 2024.   “We are very excited for participants in this second cohort of the Same Game Challenge to continue […]

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2023 AGM: Board of Directors Call for Nominations  

Canadian Women & Sport is looking for dynamic and skilled leaders to join our Board of Directors. We are seeking nominations for individuals to fill four positions to be elected to the Canadian Women & Sport Board of Directors on September 20, 2023.  As a Multisport Service Organization, Canadian Women & Sport partners with sport […]

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June Newsletter: Building Better Sport for All from Grassroots to Professional

Sport is a powerful tool for social change. We believe that by empowering women, girls, and gender-diverse people within and through sport, we can transform our sport system and our society for the better. Our 2022-23 Impact Report highlights the work we’ve been doing and how it is creating real change in the sport system.  […]

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Why is Indigenous History Month Important in Sports?

Indigenous History Month, #NIHM2023, is an important time in Canadian society to reflect on the work we must do to better commit to reconciliation in all areas, including sport.   What is the importance of National Indigenous History Month?   June is National Indigenous History Month in Canada, an opportunity to learn about the unique cultures, traditions […]

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Why is #PrideMonth Important in Sport?

During #PrideMonth, we’re sharing resources to help sports organizations and leaders continue their learning to create a better, safer sport system for all participants – regardless of their gender identity and sexual orientation. As an organization, we’re committed to standing up for inclusion, continuing our own learning and amplifying organizations that are creating change in […]

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Female kids, sports diversity and happy with friends, teamwork or development for soccer.

May Newsletter: Creating Healthier Sport Environments

Mental health is an essential part of everyone’s overall health and wellbeing. It includes how people feel about themselves and the direction of their lives, and their ability to cope with life’s challenges. Sport participation plays an important role in supporting positive mental health. Our latest Insights Report, in partnership with Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities, Rallying […]

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Apply Now: Same Game Challenge Empowers Sport Leaders to Tackle Gender Inequity 

Canadian Women & Sport is inviting sport and recreation organizations across Canada to apply for Same Game Challenge, a initiative aimed at empowering sport leaders with knowledge and tools to tackle gender inequity and help make Canadian sport more inclusive.  As part of Same Game Challenge, participants:  This program helped us understand what changes we […]

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