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 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: