Spotlight

Learn more about Canada's sport community and the Year of Sport in Canada through the following articles on a variety of sport-related themes. Happy reading!

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Resilience:

From Toronto 2015 to Rio 2016

By Curt Harnett

Curt is a former member of the Canadian Cycling Team and was chef de mission for the Toronto 2015 Canadian Pan American Team. An Olympic medalist inducted into the Canadian Sport Hall of Fame and the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame, he has sat on the board of directors for the Canadian Cycling Association and the Canadian Olympic Association. He is a member of World Bicycle Relief Canada’s board of directors and lends his time to various other charities in Canada. To learn more about the author, visit Curt Harnett .

“The Year of Sport” was specially so for me. As the Chef de Mission for the (largest ever) Canadian Team at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, my daily activities were filled with High Performance Sport. While these were not the same activities that I employed as a member of the National Cycling Team back in the 80’s and 90’s (thankfully), my daily focus was answering the question, “What more can we do to ensure that our athletes have everything that they need to compete and win at home?”

Over 700 Canadian athletes came to Toronto to compete in front of a home crowd for the Pan Am Games. Not only is this significant in scale, these Games created an amazing opportunity for our athletes to get much-needed multi-sport Games experience and to have, in many cases, a “once in a lifetime“ opportunity to compete in front of a home crowd. As well the Games provided both the athlete and the sport with a unique opportunity to build their profile one year out from the RIO 2016 Olympic Games.

As our athletes entered the stadium at the Opening Ceremonies, the 45,000 people in attendance rained pride down on the home team. Almost immediately, you could sense every athlete stand taller with pride. That moment proved to them that Canada did care, boosting their confidence. That confidence, “swagger’ if you will allow me, became even more evident on the field of play as our athletes took home a record medal haul (219 at time of this writing) at these Games! In the end, it was very apparent that our athletes were in it to win it.

These Games have also proven to be a game changer for sport opportunities. Securing the Games resulted in an unprecedented investment in new sport infrastructure – from all levels of government – in Southern Ontario. This included new builds as well as upgrades to existing infrastructure, bringing them up to international standards. This investment in such diverse sport infrastructure leaves a profound legacy for sport and communities to leverage for generations to come. 

Leading up to the Games, I spoke frequently about the opportunity for our athletes and National Sport Organizations to Expose their sport to a whole new generation of athletes, and through that exposure, Engage people to come out and enjoy their sport live and in person with the goal that they Inspire people, young and old, to become bigger fans and perhaps even competitors or participants in their sport.

Now that the Games are over, I have altered the order of delivery of those words.

The Games, with over 1.2 million tickets sold, Exposed the public to sport in a way they never had before and the performance of the athletes on the field of play Inspired Canadians with their skill and grit – win or lose. But now the work starts to further Engage the public. This can be accomplished in many ways but none more so prominent as the continued hosting of high-level competition at these new and improved international standard sport facilities.

I felt that from start to finish, 2015 proved to be great year for sport. I look forward to the positive impact of the success of this year being felt for generations to come.

Balancing an Athlete Career and Professional Life

By Cpl Hugues Boisvert-Simard

Cpl Hugues Boisvert-Simard

I started fencing at 20 years old. I fell in love with the sport, and knew I was going to do everything to become an international level athlete. You could say it’s unusually old to pick-up this discipline: most high level fencers start before they are 10. On one side it wasn’t too bad, because many fencers are still at the top by their late thirties – early forties, so I had time. On the other hand, becoming proficient technically and tactically in fencing takes years of practice, surrounded by high level fencers and "Maîtres d’Armes". The challenges were real!

Another universal challenge for amateur athletes: "How can I have a long and prosperous athlete career without jeopardizing my professional life?" I was lucky enough to have found the answer before even starting to fence: I had joined the military two years before as member of the Voltigeurs de Québec, an infantry reserve unit based in Quebec City. Many people are unaware of this, but the Canadian Military is highly supportive when their members aim at high goals and challenges when it comes to sports. Not only did the Army make it possible for me to have a full-time job with true career potential, but it also helped me greatly through the values, discipline and professionalism that I acquired. All the core values advocated and promoted by the Canadian Armed Forces, such as discipline, integrity, loyalty, courage and excellence, all translate perfectly to the athlete’s goal to be the best he can be. The challenges I surmounted during my military courses and career, the hardened determination to not turn away in the face of adversity and hardship; these are lessons that made the difference when training was painful, and more than once at key moments in competition.

The strong sense of community, like that of being part of a great family, helps tremendously for an individual sport athlete. Coming back to work to a platoon of 50, a battalion of 800 and a base of 4000 people, and at every level having someone saying "Good job, we’re very proud of you! When is the next competition?" really makes you feel part of something bigger, like you are not doing it all by yourself or for yourself. And in turn, your achievements and rigour transcends to your comrades, and makes them want to reach their goals and have as much tenacity in what they undertake.

My 2015 season was going to be a special one, kind of a redemption year! In 2011 I had missed the Mexico Pan American Games, being 3rd in the Canadian ranking (only top 2 got to compete in the individual event), and at the 5th World Military CISM Games, in Rio, I finished a couple of points from the podium, finishing fifth. This year, as in the last three, I finished first on the Canadian Men’s Epee ranking, and was selected for the Toronto Pan Am Games, winning the bronze medal in front of my fellow Canadians waving our flag! Something that doesn’t happen every day to a fencer! But that wasn’t enough to make up for 2011. The Canadian Forces chose me to be the flag bearer at the Opening Ceremonies of the World Military Games in Korea, and 4 days later I had the privilege to bring home Canada’s first medal for Canada. Two medals in two different Games the same year, that was the goal, and it’s achieved!

A special thanks to all my fellow coworkers and superiors at 1st Royal 22nd Regiment in Valcartier, to the Voltigeurs de Québec, to PSP personnel and to CISM Canada for all these memorable opportunities. No man achieves anything all by himself, and I owe a lot to these amazing people for their unwavering support throughout the years.

Sports the “MacGyver” Knife of Canadian Armed Forces Morale and Welfare

by Josey Yearley, Manager Fitness and Sports 4 Wing Cold Lake

Don’t we all dream of getting our hands on that magical device that “slices and dices”, that makes the bed and walks the dog?! Well, when it comes to morale and welfare for the Defense Team, sport is that Wonder Tool! When employed properly sport has the power to do a LOT more than develop hand-eye coordination and encourage physical fitness.

The fact of the matter is that sport is an integral part of the continuing training and development of members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), and for good reason! Sport, at every level, has the ability to develop unit cohesion, team work, morale, pride and unit identity. And individuals have as much to gain as the military unit, as sport provides opportunities to develop leadership, self-discipline, self-sacrifice and self-esteem (not to mention physical fitness!). Oh, and it only gets better!

The social benefits of sport are as far reaching as the physical demands; as community and competition are built simultaneously through the rigors of sport. But don’t take my word for it…volumes (some of them written in ancient Greece) have been written on the social benefits of sport. For example, in “Sport and the Military”, a book written by historian Professor Tony Mason and imperial historian Dr. Eliza Riedi, the authors document not only the vital contribution of sport in the military to fitness, morale and esprit de corps; but also specific examples of how sport helped to bridge the gap between civilians and armed forces.

These historians documented in detail how “playing or watching sports was something that took servicemen away from the horrors of war and became a link with society back home”.  In fact they found a letter from someone in the trenches in the First World War who was being sent copies of the Athletic News and describe how “everyone wanted to read it as it was a reminder of life at home and boosted morale.” And this is just as true in the modern military as it was back then…case in point, see the photo attached to this article: was there ever a bigger morale booster than when the Stanley Cup made it to Afghanistan?!

There can be no denying that, today, as throughout history, sport has been and continues to be the tie that binds. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, competition, a concept that is often thought of as divisive, can actually draw and hold people together with a strength surpassing military “gun tape”!

“Friendship through Sport”, the motto of the International Military Sports Council, is perpetuated in every sport at every level. Just ask the soccer moms and dads cheering on their young athletes in the stands. Or ask the military intersection volleyball player who made a connection with someone from the transport section at their last noon hour game and now knows who to contact to book a seat on the inter-base bus. Or ask the Base hockey player who got transferred this summer, and was happy to find a warm welcome at her new base from the players she met while competing at the CAF National Hockey Championships. Her opponents are now her teammates and new best buddies, making sure she doesn’t feel like a stranger in a strange land. All of these people will tell you how sport binds us together, and can act as the catalyst for fast and lasting friendships.

Yes sport can be the “super-hero” of community spirit, a unifying force of positive energy as it crosses blue lines and cultural lines in a single bound. The sports field can provide the common ground that helps everyone see that, soldier or civilian, man or women, boy or girl, we all speak the same language…the language of sport! You certainly don’t have to be an elite athlete to know the full benefit of friendship through sport. In fact, you don’t even have to be a player! Spectators and athletes alike reap the social benefits of the game. Society as a whole is strengthened from the morale fibre, pursuit of excellence, and community spirit ingrained into each and every sport! So, play on Canada, play on!

National Coaches Week

The first ever National Coaches Week, a Canada-wide celebration of coaches from the grassroots to professional levels, will be held from September 19 to 27, 2015.

During the Year of Sport in Canada this week-long initiative unifies, for the first time, the efforts of Canada’s national and multisport organizations that have previously hosted coach recognition celebrations at various times throughout a given year.

Coaches enhance Canadians’ well-being through their love of sport and physical activity

Spearheaded by the Coaching Association of Canada, the Canadian sport community will be coming together during this September week to amplify the message about the critical role of coaches as teachers, mentors, cheerleaders and supporters of our athletes from the grassroots level in all Canadian communities all the way through to the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Sport Canada supports more than 350,000 active coaches across the country through national sport organizations and their affiliates who recruit, train and encourage coaches at all levels of sport.

Sport Canada is a major supporter in the development and enhancement of coach development across the country. For example:

  • Sport Canada’s bilateral agreements with the Provinces and Territories support local-level programming that fosters participation, personal development and the life-long love of sport. For example, along with the Province of Ontario, we are helping the Aboriginal Sport and Wellness Council of Ontario offer leadership and initiatives for coaching mentorship and Aboriginal coach certification.
  • Through funding to the Coaching Association of Canada (CAC), Sport Canada has helped support the highly acclaimed National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) which is recognized throughout the world. Since the NCCP offered its first course in 1976, more than 1.3 million coaches have participated in the program.
  • In partnership with national sport organizations and Own the Podium, Sport Canada contributes to the salaries and professional development of more than 300 coaches of national teams for the Olympic Games, Paralympic Games and world championships.
  • Sport Canada helps fund CAC’s delivery of the Women in Coaching (WiC) program, a national campaign to increase the number of coaching opportunities for women. Initiatives include the National Team Apprentice Program, the National Coaching Institute Scholarships, the National Coach Workshop, the Canada Games Women Apprentice Coach Program and the Canadian Journal for Women in Coaching.
  • Sport Canada's support to the CAC helps support the Aboriginal Coaching Program , preparing Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal coaches to work with Aboriginal athletes. This program is complimented by the Canada Games Aboriginal Apprentice Coach, offering Aboriginal coaches the opportunity to gain experience with their Provincial/Territorial Team at the Canada Games.
  • Sport Canada supports the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) with the Female Apprentice Coach program, targeting female graduating student-athletes to participate in collegiate sport as apprentice coaches.
  • Sport Canada supports the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Sport (CAAWS) to support women coaches as leaders.
  • Sport Canada’s Athlete Assistance Program provides carded athletes with financial support to further their education, including coaching related studies (NCCP, National Coaching Institute, University and other) to help athletes transition to a coaching career.

This September 19 to 27, Sport Canada will proudly join the celebration, recognizing the tremendous positive impact that coaches have on athletes and communities across Canada.

Together, let's cheer #ThanksCoach

A Coach’s Philosophy: Relentless Optimism and the Binary Life

Peter Lawless has been involved in high performance sport for over 25 years and is a Chartered Professional Coach. He is a three time winner of the National Petro Canada Coaching Excellence Award for both cycling and athletics and was B.C. ’s Coach of the Year in 2012. Athletes coached by Lawless have broken 28 World Records in athletics and won over a dozen Paralympic Games or world championships medals in both cycling and athletics. Beyond direct coaching, Lawless sits on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Olympic Committee, Cycling Canada and ViaSport. He is currently a litigator in the Health and Social Services Group of the Ministry of Justice for the province of British Columbia.

Peter with Michelle Stilwell during a training session before the London 2012 Paralympic Games

I was asked a few years ago if I had a coaching “philosophy” and it struck me that I had never actually stopped and thought about that question. Looking back on it now it seem ridiculous that I hadn’t articulated, even just to myself, a few fundamental beliefs that infused my attitudes and behaviours as a coach. Well, thanks to that question, I am now able to say that my philosophy is one that reflects my views on the choices that face athletes and coaches and the mindset I believe we all need in order to accomplish our goals. I have styled this philosophy “Relentless Optimism and the Binary Life”.

But what does that mean? It seems to me that sport is filled with jargon and with little buzz phrases. I also know that all of these cues and phrases mean much, much more than the quick 2 words I get to yell out at an athlete as he or she passes me on the track at 30km/h.

For me Relentless Optimism is about a fundamental and deep rooted belief in future success. It’s absolutely aspirational. It’s maintaining, at all times, a positive belief in both yourself and in others. It means that I remain deliberately positive and committed to a process that I believe will lead to the outcomes I desire. My optimism is not swayed by defeat. It is not impacted by failure. I recognize that failure is a requirement of ultimate success. Each “failed” interval is one of the necessary building blocks to my eventual success. I never waver - that is the relentless part. I believe in the ruthless maintenance of a positive outlook even in the hardest part of the off-season or on the long road back from injury directly and tangibly leads to a much more positive process and in turn that positive process leads to better outcomes. I feel it is vitally important to achieving our goals to wilfully choose the more positive belief in every situation.

Peter with Paralympic Champion Michelle Stilwell London 2012

The Binary Life is about being painstakingly deliberate in all of your decision making. I remember first hearing of binary code a long time ago and I was staggered by the simplicity of it. It was hard to believe that using only zeros and ones, incredibly complicated programs could be written - however it worked. Similarly, in the binary life I believe we can reduce all of our choices down to either being a zero or a one. Basically I feel that for athletes and coaches who are devoted to success, life is binary. All of the myriad of choices that face each athlete and each coach can be reduced down to being either a zero or a one. Either the selected option helps me achieve my goal (making it a “1”) or it doesn’t help as much/negatively impacts the achievement of the goal (making it a “0”).

Either finishing a planned workout at full commitment or coasting is a choice each athlete faces when they are tired. Its “easy” to slow down a little, go through the motions. But in a binary life the choice for the athlete is stark – they can fully commit to the work (a “1”) knowing that work is crucial to their ultimate goal or they can ease off a bit (a “0”) but in doing so they hurt their chances even just a little bit of achieving their goal. It’s the same choice when faced with drinking pop instead of water, going to bed on time versus watching one more episode of my favourite show.

Mark Ledo, Bronze, 2010 UCI Paracycling World Championships

The binary life emphasizes active recognition that every single choice I make has a direct and tangible actual impact on my ultimate goal. I feel that using a binary construct is a very effective and useful way of tying these small, sometimes unthinking, choices to the sometimes far off and seemingly unconnected goals. It’s a way of connecting the salad vs. fries choice to stepping onto a World Championship podium. It’s a way of staying true to ourselves by acknowledging in every choice the positive or negative impact on our goal. It’s a way of ensuring a thoughtless choice is not allowed to detract from achieving athletic success.

I work very hard to not only practice what I preach but to also convey to my athletes these concepts and my thinking behind them. I have been incredibly privileged to work with some truly exceptional athletes in more than one sport and have been there as they have broken world records and stepped onto World Championship and Paralympic Games Podiums. I believe that part of what has contributed to the success we have collectively had is a commitment to the philosophy of Relentless Optimism and the Binary Life.

Coach-to-Athlete Communications: Choose Your Words Consciously

Shawnee Harle, ChPC
Assistant Coach, Women’s National Basketball Team

With more than 25 years of experience in community and high performance coaching, Shawnee Harle, ChPC, is a Master Learning Facilitator for the Coaching Association of Canada’s National Coaching Certification Program where she trains and mentors both advanced and novice coaches from all sports. In July of 2015, Shawnee Harle was on the coaching staff that led Canada’s national women’s basketball team to an undefeated 5-0 record and a Pan American Games gold medal during the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games. This success was followed by Team Canada winning the 2015 FIBA Americas Women’s Championship in August 2015, qualifying the team for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Coach Shawnee Harle communicating with her athletes

Coaches have the opportunity to change lives. Most of the athletes we coach may never compete past the high school or post-secondary level, so the most important skills we can pass on are life skills. Throughout their competitive career, we develop athletes to ultimately reach the podium, but are we consciously equipping them with the tools they need to stand tall and proud on the podium of life.

A critical element of that toolbox is confidence and it often stems from the coaches’ conscious communication. It is a tool that can both empower and instill confidence in athletes.

Tools build and weapons injure

In basketball, I sometimes hear coaches say things like “stop turning the ball over” or “you have to make those easy shots”. These comments are weapons because they highlight the mistake, which creates fear and discourages risk-taking. Alternatively, expert coaches understand that mistakes are necessary in order for their athletes to grow. They teach their athletes that mistakes are simply problems that need to be solved. During the Gold Medal game versus Cuba at the recent FIBA Americas Women’s Championship in Edmonton, one of our players kept shooting over top of the big Cuban post. Instead of telling her to “stop taking those shots” (stating the problem), when she came out of the game, I went down and gave this feedback:

"That player is bigger and stronger, and when you settle for those shots, it works to her advantage. Use your speed and athleticism to your advantage and drive around her to score on the far side of the hoop (solution). ”

She did exactly that in the fourth quarter, which sparked a run for our team and helped us pull away in the last four minutes of the game. Great coaches use their words to provide solutions and ultimately, teach their athletes to become independent learners who can solve their own problems.

Strong is empowering and powerful is controlling

Powerful means the coach owns the outcome as well as the emotions of the athletes. When coaches praise athletes for success and scold them for mistakes or losses, athletes become coach dependent. This creates a slippery slope where the athlete becomes needy and performs to please the coach, to garner praise, and to avoid disapproval. Empowering means we teach the athletes to own their successes and failures and equip them with the tools to deal with both. We release our athletes to the game, the event, and we let the entire experience belong to them. This accomplishes two things:

  1. The coach can rise above frustration and disappointment, and allow the athletes to own the outcome and live and learn from the associated lessons; and
  2. The athlete can rise above frustration and disappointment because the coach has taught them that mistakes and setbacks are temporary and simply a problem that needs be solved.

Feedback is best utilized when it includes logic and reasoning rather than emotion, yelling, or blaming. Expert Coaches talk with their athletes rather than at them.

Putting athletes on the podium of life

If coaches pay attention and choose their words consciously, it allows them to build athletes that seek and embrace challenges and bounce back quickly from setbacks. When athletes understand that mistakes are necessary and all problems have a solution, they learn to become the super hero in their own lives and they step up to save themselves. When an athlete believes they can save themselves and understands that the most important approval is self-approval, it does not guarantee a gold medal, but it does build self-esteem, character, and resilience. I am convinced these are gold medal attributes on the podium of life.

Alison Levine: An Athlete Above All

By Alison Levine
2015 Parapan American Games athlete and member of CIBC’s Team NEXT

Alison Levine, photo courtesy of Jean-Baptiste Benavent.

Sport has always been an integral part of who I am. Horseback riding, wheelchair rugby, wheelchair basketball, yoga – you name it - I’ve given it a try. Today, I play boccia; a precision game founded on strategy, technical skill and mental toughness. As put well by my teammate Marco Dispaltro, boccia is like life-size chess.

In my classification, BC4, the sport is played individually or in pairs. Sides are categorized as either red or blue, using balls denoting that colour. Red takes the first shot, but using a white ball, the jack, to set the course of the game. After throwing the jack ball onto the court, sides take shots aiming to propel the greatest number of balls nearer the jack than their opponent’s closest ball. The individual or pair who has the closest ball to the jack, wins the end. Their points are determined by the number of balls that sit nearer to the white ball than the closest ball of the opposing side. After four ends, the side with the most points, takes the match.

On an elite level, there are few women who play boccia. I remember going to my first international competition last year in Montréal and noticing how few women were in attendance. This is particularly interesting as, due to the nature of the disabilities of players who compete in boccia, the strongest athletes can easily be men or women. On Canada’s team, for instance, I’m known as the resident powerhouse.

Boccia has played an incredible role in my life; I’ve had the opportunity to meet different people from all backgrounds and travel across the world. I’ve learned discipline, teamwork, and the importance of hard work and commitment. This May in Montréal, I’ve felt what it’s like to win gold on home turf at the 2015 BISFed Americas Pairs/Team event at the 32nd edition of Défi Sportif and my performance at the Boccia World Open in Poznan, Poland earned me two silver medals – one in pair play, and one in individual.

At the same time, I’ve experienced the challenges, setbacks and struggles that are part of being an athlete. I spent long days on the court in training and experienced rough days at competition. Early mornings, late nights and sore muscles are all part of the game. Is it worth it? Absolutely.

There are many similarities between Paralympic sports and female involvement in sport. It is by providing access and coverage to these groups that we support the values and skills inherent in athletic participation.

That being said, I think we’re at a turning point where we’re seeing significant shifts forward concerning the continued development of the Paralympic movement – in Canada and abroad – as well as the dialogue surrounding female athleticism. Canada is hosting two important competitions in this Year of Sport, the FIFA 2015 Women’s World Cup as well as the Toronto 2015 Pan American and Parapan American Games which showcase athletes of both genders and a range of abilities. I am also very lucky to be a part of CIBC’s Team NEXT, a program which provides funding and mentorship opportunities to athletes of all levels of ability over a period of three years.

This May, I had the honour of being selected for nomination to compete at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games in August – I look forward to representing Canada not as a woman, or a person with a disability, but as an athlete.

Gaining speed through problem solving and decision making skills
Paralympic Alpine Ski Coaches take their athletes on a new experience

By: Dave White
Coach for Canada’s Para-Alpine Ski Team

Front to back - Dave White, Will Marshall, Todd Cuthbert.
Karting Thetford in Thetford Mines.

Having the courage to dive into a turn in alpine skiing can sometimes be daunting and when you are part of the Canadian Para-Alpine Ski Team, not only do you need courage but you also need to strategize to achieve the fastest possible line. Recently our Canadian para-alpine skiers attended a team building event led by Canadian Ski Coach Federation Technical Director Pierre Ruel and Canadian Ski Coach Federation Technical Mentor and Porsche Club of America racecar driver, Matt Distefano, MD. Under the supervision of the two, the Canadian Para-Alpine ski team took to the track and discovered what go-karting and ski racing have in common.

The day’s events were as much about self-discovery as it was about translating what our athletes knew about ski racing to the racetrack. It began with a warm-up as the athletes ripped around the track, getting a feel for the race karts. After the first session there was a short debrief as we talked about the experience and what we could do better. On the track, following behind Pierre and Matt, the best race line was quickly deciphered and momentum gained.

After another few laps and another debrief session, the athletes were becoming increasingly aware of their improved line and times. The athletes were required to use their own problem-solving skills and apply the same tactics they use on snow to fix their lines, control speed and find new ways to build the most momentum. Following a few more conversations, the athletes hit the track again with an even clearer sense of direction on how to apply ski-racing logic to kart racing.

With minimal input from the experienced driving coaches, the athletes were achieving faster times with their own discovered solutions. However, Pierre decided to add a challenge: Same track, but in the opposite direction. The first few laps were a disaster. All the external cues were different, challenging the timing previously learned in the first two sessions. But the skills the athletes had learned were applied and most were successful in maintaining their speed following Pierre, the fastest driver of the day.

At the end of the day, external cues were discussed along with tactical strategies. The importance of adjusting timing, points of entrance and exits to each turn, and deciding when to accelerate and when to let off are all tactical skills that are transferable from the track to the ski course and vice versa. Days like these are instrumental in the learning process and the athletes were able to experience and learn skills on their own that will translate into on-snow success. A lot of the athletes’ quick learning on the track was due to their frame of reference from skiing. By the end of the day, this fun team event allowed the athletes to learn and experience the valuable importance of external cues regarding timing, line and direction, which are all applicable and essential to ski racing and decision making.

Michele O'Keefe: Leading Canada Basketball To An Epic Summer

Written by: Michele O’Keefe, President and CEO, Canada Basketball

One of the most impactful sporting moments for me was the Stephen Brunt video essay he did during the Vancouver Olympics. He spoke of the Canadian pride that was evident on the streets of the city. He referred to the swagger that was already there – it was just waiting for the right stage.

Stephen used phrases like – “we gave ourselves permission to feel something we needed to feel” and “the Vancouver Olympics were an excuse to wave the flag and sing the anthem. ”

Photo of Michele O'Keefe, Canada Basketball's
President and CEO, encouraging our athletes
at a rally

As someone who has grown up to be a fiercely proud Canadian and a lover of all things basketball, I find myself in the unique position of President & CEO of Canada Basketball. Who gets this lucky?

When I was young, growing up in Welland, I was lucky enough to see the Canadian national teams play the occasional friendly match. I grew up watching Lynn Polson, Andrea Blackwell and Jay Triano play live. They were my role models – the people who inspired me to compete.

But it was people like Margaret Clark, one of my first coaches, and a crew of committed volunteers who gave freely of their time that inspired me to stay involved with sport. The basketball volunteers that we have in Canada are selfless and without them we wouldn’t have the thriving basketball environment we have now.

As the cliché goes – luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. It is my privilege to be a leader in my sport at one of the most incredible times in developmental history.

I’m often being asked about being a woman in the male-dominated sport world. In my mind, that isn’t an issue. I work hard, I try to be logical and I have a vision of where I see basketball elevating to – both in Canada and on the world stage. In my role, I represent my sport, my country and myself and I take that very seriously. As a typical Canadian, I have a reputation of being “nice. ” That’s a good thing – I am nice. But I also have to be ready to make hard decisions in pursuit of excellence. Relentlessness is also a good Canadian trait – regardless of gender.

The road ahead is an exciting one. Not only are we hosting the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games on home soil, we’re also hosting the FIBA Americas Women’s Championship (International Basketball Federation) in Edmonton in August. This tournament serves as the qualification tournament for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Win and you’re in! Finish second, third or fourth and qualify for the last chance tournament.

Bringing this tournament to Canada, as well as having the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games and Parapan Am Games in Ontario, are occasions when we get to unleash our Canadian pride and cheer for our hugely talented teams.

We’ve been incredibly fortunate to forge a strong relationship with our partner. With the support of the Government of Canada (Sport Canada), the City of Edmonton, the Province of Alberta, and Edmonton Events, we’re able to bring world-class women’s basketball to Alberta – with an Olympic berth on the line.

Our goal is to win and get to Rio, but along the way we will capture the hearts and minds of young girls and inspire them to play basketball and to reach for their highest dreams. They will see our team of women who represent Canada with pride and respect and will be able to envision themselves representing Canada one day too.

Michele is leading Canada Basketball into an exciting chapter in their organization’s story that is seeing the game of basketball continue to grow from the grassroots on courts across the country to the presence of Canadian players showing maple leaf pride in colleges and universities across North American and in professional leagues around the globe.

The Government of Canada’s Advocacy Toward Quality Equality in Sport

This article was written by Sport Canada's Policy & Research Unit.

Women have a rich history in Canadian sport as participants, volunteers, leaders and advocates. Canadian female athletes are making up more of the recent Olympic teams and are collecting medals at an unprecedented rate.

The Government of Canada, through Sport Canada, is committed to celebrating these performances and to seeing an increasing number of women in national team coaching, volunteer leadership, and in advisory and technical roles.

Policy in Canada in this area has come a long way during the course of the last 25 years.

In the 1980s, the ‘women’s’ liberation’ movement in North America was in full swing. In 1981, the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS) formed to advocate on behalf of women in sport. A year later, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enacted in 1982. Sport Canada, inspired by the passionate advocacy of leaders like Marion Lay, Abbey Hoffman and Petra Burke, championed girls’ and women’s right to participation, opposing sex-discrimination in sport. One demonstration of this is that since 1986, Sport Canada has not funded sport organizations which are segregated by gender or do not provide equitable programs.

By the late 1990s, with growing societal awareness of other groups facing discrimination, Sport Canada’s orientation towards women in sport became one of access and equity for all under-represented groups. Sport Canada worked with our Canadian sport partners to not only reduce discrimination, but to increase the number of girls and women in the sport system. This decade also saw the creation of the first international declaration of global gender equity principles in sport, commonly referred to as the Brighton Declaration on Women and Sport.

More recently, Sport Canada’s focus has evolved further to enriching the qualityof the opportunities and support for girls’ and women’s participation. In 2009, Sport Canada announced Actively Engaged: A Policy on Sport for Women and Girls, which was developed to foster sport environments where women and girls are provided with quality sport experiences and equitable support.

Sport Canada currently partners with organizations that are actively committed to, or have programs to support women in sport, including:

Sport Canada also matches funding provided by provincial/territorial governments for projects which identify women and girls in sport as a target group.

In addition, the Athletes Assistance Program, which provides directly monthly support to Canada’s top amateur athletes to help with their living and training expenses, is almost a 50/50 gender split amongst the approximately 1,800 carded athletes.

During the Year of Sport, events like the FIFA 2015 Women’s World Cup and the Toronto 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games will be tremendous to showcase women’s sporting excellence, to promote quality sport experiences and equitable support for women and girls.

Through the example of our passionate, determined Canadian female athletes, we know that the next generation of women in sport will be inspired to chase their dreams and to embody a life-long love for sport.

Moira Lassen: Fun & Games

By Moira Lassen
Games Planning & Delivery Advisor-Samoa commonwealth Youth Games 2015
International Weightlifting Federation - Executive Board Member

Sport has always been a part of my life. Growing up in Ontario in the 60’s and 70’s, we played sport all the time, both structured and unstructured. Summer nights had games of street hockey, four-square, blubber-ball’ and hide’n seek; winters consisted of skiing, tobogganing and snow tag (still my favourite!).

As a young mother, I wanted my own children to be involved in sport as well. By the time my two young ones were old enough to get involved, things were changing and structured sport was more the norm.

People involve themselves or their children in sport for multiple reasons, whether to socialize, stay fit, and be active or as for my children, to foster independence and responsibility. Most people understand that sport provides a forum to develop skills and fine tune tactics on the playing field.

In my case, much of my skill development and tactical fine-tuning in sport has been learned off the playing field, in the national and international board rooms and offices where very few women, if any, had ever been.

Sport is a microcosm of society and in it we find many layers of beliefs, politics and power struggles; this is the competition off the playing field. This is the unseen, mostly uncelebrated competition, the part of the game, most know little about. And this is where I find myself always alone. This is where, more often than not, I am the only woman.

I learned of this world of sport in the mid-90’s, in the days before the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada (SDRCC) when my then 14 year old daughter, Jeane Lassen, was involved in a court case revolving around her participation at an international event. Soon after this precedent setting case, I became completely entrenched in the administrative, officiating and governance aspect of Olympic Weightlifting.

Photo of Moira (left) and her Olympian daughter Jeane Lassen (right) at the 2005 World Weightlifting Campionships in Quatar.

For many years I spent my working day at Sport Yukon administrating grass roots and high performance multi-sport and in the evenings and weekends focused my attention to my passion of Weightlifting. Through some pretty tumultuous times in sport, as in life, I have learned to accept and appreciate hard work, commitment, dedication and being alone.

In 2013, I became the first woman ever elected to the (IWF) the International Weightlifting Federation Executive Board. On the morning of the election I made the conscious effort of detaching myself from the outcome. I remember as I was walked down the corridor toward the Electoral Congress conference room the distinct feeling of someone pushing me forward, pushing me forward into a fire. The pressure of the pushing was gentle but firm and the fire did not hurt and it was not scary; it just was. I believe this is similar to athletes being in the zone and just like an athlete, I had prepared to win. I had completed years of training to get there. I knew the game I was walking into. No matter the outcome of the election, no one could take any of it away from me. I had already won just by being able to compete at that level. And as it turned out, my seat at the table was confirmed.

Over the last number of years, I have tried to actively use my role with the IWF Executive Board to support the development of our sport across the world. I lived in London prior to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and then made a move across the UK to Glasgow to work on the team that brought the 2014 Commonwealth Games to life. And now I’m living in Samoa as the Games Planning & Delivery Advisor in advance of at the Samoa 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games here in September 2015.

The multi-sport game environment is a unique and interesting dynamic consisting mostly of individuals living a slightly nomadic lifestyle – commonly referred to as ‘Games Chasers’. There are so many people working on different projects all at once in an open concept setting and it’s loud and it’s distracting and there is drama and people jockeying for position every day. But somehow all those individuals come together, in what feels like just moments before the Opening Ceremony, to make it happen – for the athletes, the spectators, the love of sport and its ability to build bridges between people.

What have I learned from this winding sport adventure? I have learned how to appreciate and accept human feelings. The feelings that come with sport are extremely fascinating. They can be unpleasant and not particularly fun sometimes. At other times, they can be so amazing they leave you awestruck and speechless.

Sport enables us to connect to other people all over the world - we may not speak the same mother tongue and we may differ significantly in cultural, political and societal beliefs but we can still make a profound connection. We connect because of the language of our sport; we connect because of the feelings associated with our sport. It is the feelings that make me feel less alone.

Sport is about being human, with all its beauty and its foibles. Sport is life.

Latin Runners: A Lesson in Community Building Through Sport

By Barb Macdonald

As a newly arrived immigrant to Canada, Lluvia Meneses was mystified by the people she saw running outdoors in all kinds of weather in her new country. In her native Mexico, very few people ran as an activity, and certainly would not be running early in the morning in rain, mist, fog and snow! After a few months, she recognized that the outdoor lifestyle that was so prevalent in her adopted city of Vancouver might be worth an attempt. Responding to an ad in a community magazine, she thought that she, who had rarely exercised and had never run for pleasure, would give running a try. Her curiosity to explore an activity that would help her fit into a new culture gave birth to the LatinRunners (LR), and in just two years, her interest in running has spread to over 650 women from Latin cultures in the lower mainland of British Columbia.

Photo of Lluvia Meneses and her Latin Runners teammates preparing for a run.

As Lluvia encouraged Spanish speaking friends to join her in the run, which involved phoning regularly, texting them on a rainy day, and often picking them up to get to the running trails, the word spread in the tightly knit Latino community. Soon a group of women, mostly in their early 30s who were stay at-home moms, were running together. More women wanted to join, and soon Lluvia was travelling from her home in Langley to Vancouver to encourage new LR groups. She realized that even with a supportive husband who helped look after their two young daughters, she needed to build up leaders to take over the responsibility for the new groups.

The group operates solely on volunteer support, so it has pursued and found funding available for training leaders, including a Women in Sport Encouragement (WISE) grant from CAAWS (the Canadian Association for Advancement of Women and Sport) that is supported by the Government of Canada. Using the funds, they invited Lynn Kunuka, a runner and Olympic medalist, to train women on how to lead their own groups. These volunteer leaders are coaches, chauffeurs, administrators, and lead running three times a week for 13 weeks. A running buddy is a vital aspect of the group, to encourage one another, to meet to run and train together and to make sure one another reaches the finish line. The social element is very important, and they have added Zumba, yoga and other activities as well.

Early on Lluvia recognized that this was more than a fitness activity for the women. Many of them were shy to speak English, and were not finding opportunities to use the skills that they had developed in their native countries. She introduced them to volunteering, which is so integral to Canadian culture, but was often not a familiar activity to immigrants. Members were encouraged to volunteer at other races, learning what it meant to be up in the early hours of the morning to set out race course materials and prepare water stations. As they worked together with English speakers, they practised their language skills, and learned valuable lessons about the role of volunteers in Canada.

Photo of members of Latin Runners Ruring a run along the boardwalk in Vancouver.

As volunteers, LR also provided an opportunity for women to expand their skills. One member who had trained as an accountant took over the handling of finances. Another is responsible for social media, maintaining a very professional looking website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram social media feeds. A closed Facebook page unites all of the different LR groups where members must post photos after every run.
Then when they gather together for a race, there are familiar faces as people meet in person for the first time, expanding the sense of community.

While most of the women are in their 30s, some of the now 650 women who have been part of the program are grandmothers. There is a multi-generational impact as people experience the benefit of being active and fit for live. The women are serving as role models for their daughters, and they incorporate their children into runs and races. Other family members who have visited Canada are also taking the concept back to their homelands. And Lluvia’s own mother has begun walking regularly back in Mexico as a result of seeing the LatinRunners in Canada.

Lluvia gives full credit for the success of the program to the many leaders who have now emerged to encourage others. She sees this as the critical success factor; that these women leaders build self-esteem and self-confidence that they can apply to all aspects of their lives.

Lluvia’s goal for all the LatinRunners is not only that the women become runners, but also that they will now feel much more at home in Canada. She tells them, “Canada opened the doors of this beautiful country to us. I invite every immigrant to find a way to make a small contribution and pay back this opportunity. Let’s make a difference in Canada. ” Lluvia and all of the LatinRunners have certainly made a difference in Canada, in their own lives, and in the lives of their families.

An Olympic Mom’s Story

By Jayne McCann, Mother of Canadian 2012 Olympian Melanie McCann (Modern Pentathlon)

Melanie McCann takes aim during the modern pentathlon competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

August 12, 2012. A day with so many emotions – pride, admiration, excitement and relief. Here I was sitting with 13,000 people at the London Greenwich Park stadium waiting for the ride to begin during the modern pentathlon competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Seeing that many people there to watch my daughter, Melanie McCann from little rural Mount Carmel, Ontario, I thought I’d be nervous as the ride is usually the one event I can’t bear to watch (amongst the 5 sports of pentathlon - swimming, fencing, show jumping and a combined run and shoot) but surprisingly I felt a real calm. It had been 9 years all wrapped up into one day. She was ready and so was I. On that day, Melanie’s 11th place finish at the London 2012 Games is the best-ever performance by a Canadian modern pentathlete at an Olympic Games.

Melanie’s athletic attributes definitely come from my side of the family. Her grandfather was a very athletic man that never backed away from a physical challenge. I remember as a kid watching his determination and confidence and it stays with me in my athletic endeavors even now. Early on in Melanie I saw this not only in sports but also in her academics and the drive to be the best.

I love all sports and wanted my four kids to have the opportunity to participate in what was available in our community. For me it was seeing them have fun, enjoying the time. The choice was always theirs. There was always another sport to try. I had no preconceived vision of elite athletic goals for them – it was just about spending time together and seeing them have fun. With Melanie, she was always game to try something new. As a teenager she was having success in track and enjoying her swimming club. When a coach introduced her to modern pentathlon, she loved and thrived in the challenge. She’s just wired to compete.

Melanie on her horse as a youngster in Mount Carmel, ON.

Our family is no different than others committed to their kids in sport. We have logged the miles; weekends in hotels, early mornings, late nights, juggled meals and homework, and sacrificed social events for sleep. That said, looking back now, the demands of modern pentathlon meant that we had to lean on a large clan of family and friends. We still smile thinking about the number of times a day a vehicle from Mt. Carmel made the 40-minute drive to London, ON.

With each step with the 5 sports in modern pentathlon, Melanie and I would talk through the logistics to make sure she could handle it. I’ve never heard her say that I’m not doing it. It was always I want to do this, I can make it work. With no active pentathlon club in our area, we had to piece her training together. We had some super coaches in our area that took Melanie under their wing and embraced what she was striving for. Without hesitation, they integrated her into their programs.

But when it came to competitions, it was a much more solitary experience. I remember a national fencing competition where it was just her and I. She was doing really well, close to a podium position. The other competitor was surrounded by her club, cheering her on and there I sat, alone at Melanie’s side. Her bout was tied and next point won. At the break, we both looked at each other and I said “What other moves you got?” and she said “none”. She dug deep and won the point.

As her successes grew and level of competition increased, a support team developed that began to manage her training and performance. I took the cue to step back and let the decisions be made by her and her support team. Trusting the expertise and vision of that team is key in transitioning from hands-on parent to full-time cheerleader. My role now is mostly logistical - arranging her travel, handling her day-to-day living needs, troubleshooting, and helping to alleviate pressures outside the sport. When she needs it, Melanie will come to me for my input and we talk through what’s on her mind.

Of course there are low points - we’ve been through injuries, poor performance, the loss of different sources of athlete funding, the loneliness of training and so on. It can be tough on both of us because sometimes there isn’t anything either of us can do but accept it and move on. That’s when I feel I can be the most help in picking her up, physically and emotionally.

Now 12 years into the modern pentathlon journey, I couldn’t be more proud of Melanie. With the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games just ahead and the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in sight, I know that the fire inside her burns as bright as ever. Like I said, she is wired to compete … and I’ll be there however and whenever she needs me.

The Strength Behind My Olympic Journey

By Melanie McCann, 2012 Canadian Olympian in Modern Pentathlon

Melanie and her Mom embrace after the completion of the modern pentathlon competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

In our house, an arm wrestling competition always ends the playful trash talk around the kitchen table - and the champion is always my mom.

Sport has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. The majority of my best memories and proudest moments involve sport in some way, and my family. My mom has been an integral part of my athletic career and my passion for sport and life. As a kid, I always wanted to be just like my mom. I can remember racing her down the laneway at the end of a jog or watching her demonstrate the triple jump in the sand pit she convinced my dad to dig in the back yard to help us prepare for the school track and field meet.

Competing at the Olympic Games was a culmination of years of training, sacrifice, and hard work that led to the realization of a dream. Behind all that was my Mom, believing in and supporting me, and occasionally picking me up along the way. My mom has been through it all; the early mornings, the late nights and weeks away. In the beginning she was the taxi driver, teacher, tutor, cheerleader and cook. As I strived to become a high performance athlete, she became my advisor, travel agent, secretary, voice of reason and travel companion. But through it all, she has remained my motivation, inspiration and my rock.

One of the things I admire most about my mother is her ability to live life to the fullest. Given all the time we’ve spent away, we always find time to explore the new place we’re in, trying new foods and meeting new people. Yes, sport requires intense focus and the ability to put yourself in a bubble to compete, but if you don’t find a balance, you will miss out on all the best things in life and the time will rush past in a blur. From the Great Wall of China to the Giza Pyramids, we have seen some of the world’s wonders, coupled around competitions. She’s taught me that there is always time to enjoy the experience and to run with the opportunity – literally.

Melanie clearing a jump with her horse at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

I certainly thank my mom for her athletic genes, but moreso I thank her for the unrelenting drive and pursuit of excellence she has instilled in me. Anytime a neighbour or relative expressed how much I was like my mom, I would beam from the inside out. She never shied away when I told her I wanted to be an Olympian - after yet another swim practice spent at the back of the pack. It seemed like a long shot, but she must have known back then I’d find a way to claw to the top. I could always count on her to believe in me before I even believed in myself.

My athletic journey is far from over as I strive towards the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games and on to my second Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. Anytime I put on my red and white, I am so proud to represent my country, my community, my family and my mom.

And as for the arm wrestling champion, she still reigns for now, but whether that’s because of her pure strength or my desire to keep the tradition going, she’ll never know.

Thank you, Mom!

That’s my boy!

By Paul Cook, Father of Dustin Cook (Alpine Skiing)
Dustin is a World Cup winner on the international ski circuit and one of Canada’s best young national alpine ski racers.

They say that the best way to encourage is to lead by example. Our parents led an active lifestyle and both Karen and I grew up skiing and involved in a number of sports and still are today.

Dustin Cook at the 2015 (FIS) Alpine World Ski Championships. Photo courtesy of Pentaphoto and Alpine Canada Alpin.

We were ski instructors and coaches when Dustin was born and we wanted to encourage our children to be active as well. We chose skiing over hockey as it’s more of a family sport. Dustin was active and athletic from the start and kept us active trying to tire him out. He liked to go fast so getting him into Nancy Greene and junior racing was a natural progression which quickly turned into club racing at Mont Ste. Marie.

As he progressed, so did our volunteer duties as parents. As Karen was busy with our young daughters, I learned to officiate and help with races which allowed me to learn even more about ski racing. This also enabled me to support Dustin while being "on the hill" as he raced. I eventually ended up as the Alpine Director for Mont Ste. Marie and Chair of the National Capital Outaouais (NCO) Ski Team. Karen followed by becoming an official in both skiing and swimming, the sport our older daughter, Maddie, started shining in as early as 8 years old.

Support in skiing was, of course, on and off the hill (for swimming it’s in and out of the pool) – getting out the door at 6 a.m. in -25 degrees wasn’t uncommon, nor was being on the hill working for most of the day. The kids were always keen to get up for most training days, and even more so for race days. We were at all times available for the kids but busy enough not to dote on them which allowed them to become independent and responsible.

Father and son celebrating together at the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.

The hard part of ski racing is encouraging them in the off season – to do their dry land workouts and run or bike as directed by coaches or trainers – there are so many other cool things to do when you’re 15 and workouts aren’t usually "cool". We’ve had many heated discussions over workouts over the years with each child! I’m the "tough love" dad and I say things the way I see them (ie. You need to train harder) whereas Karen’s the gentle encourager (ie. I’ll wake you in the morning so we can go for a run) but between us, it seems to have worked pretty well for them. Becca, our youngest, is following in her brother’s ski racing footsteps after deciding that swimming wasn’t really her thing. Being the youngest, she’s seen a lot and knows that workouts are a must.

Being "part psychologist" certainly helps any parent of an athlete! It’s a tough thing to know the right words to say when things aren’t going well or how much to "encourage". When your ideas don’t match your spouses, things can become tense! Injuries are another issue as well, in particular in the sport of alpine skiing. Sometimes the long road to travel requires patience and support. We’ve always been there for the kids when the sun is shining and even more so when it’s not. One benefit to us as parents is that the kids also support and encourage what we do and that sometimes helps encourage us to work harder towards our goals.

It’s been one of our goals to encourage our kids in sport and in life, to be the best they can be but without pushing them too hard or berating them for poor results, and I think we’ve done pretty well at that.

We got the kids into sport but they became the drivers as their passion and dedication to the sport grew - we were/are the accommodation and encouragement. Our kids are all superstars in our eyes, in life and in sport.

The early years - Paul and Dustin Cook at the Mont Ste-Marie Ski Centre, Quebec.

Dustin has put in many years of hard work which basically fell into place this season beginning with a 13th place finish in Super G at the Lake Louise World Cup. Karen, Maddie and I watched it together on live streaming at home and the roof almost lifted off the house due to our cheers and screams. Dustin had skied his best race and cracked the top 15 so we were thrilled as was the region’s ski community. This race gave him the confidence he needed after a few years of "almosts" or bad days, grunt work and dedication.

Dustin went on to earn all three podium spots this season but the proudest and most memorable moment was being in Vail for the World Championships (the second biggest alpine event next to the Olympics).

In the Super G event, Dustin started as racer #28, far enough back in the field that the racers before him were pretty comfortable standing in the leader’s box. I was a volunteer in the race until it started and was dressed in the red, white & blue uniform so I guess I looked like an American. I watched and cheered and held my breath in the stadium as he laid down the run of a lifetime - crossing the line 0.11 seconds back, in 2nd place! There were tears beneath my goggles and the Americans couldn’t understand why I was screaming so much until I yelled "That’s MY SON"!

What the Maple Leaf means to me

Guest blog written by Nolan Thiessen
Twitter: @nolancurling34

Nolan Thiessen in competition at the 2015 Ford Men’s World Curling Championship (Curling Canada/Michael Burns).

Nolan is a member of the Canadian team competing at the 2015 Ford World Men’s Curling Championships in Halifax. He was born in Manitoba and competed in the 2001 Canada Summer Games in baseball for Team Manitoba. As a curler, he competed in the 2003 Winter Universiade before moving to Alberta and competing in the Brier, winning it three times (2010, 2014 and 2015). He was part of the gold-medal-winning team at the 2010 World Curling Championships.

Canadians by nature tend to be quietly patriotic. Yes, we love our country and everything it stands for, but it’s not part of our culture to wave the flag and tell everyone how great Canada is.

As many of you know from travelling abroad, it can take stepping outside of our borders to really fly the flag and show our pride in the Maple Leaf.

When I was a teenager, I moved to the United States to play baseball at the high school and then college level. When I got down south, I took pride in telling everyone that I was Canadian. (I even snuck down to my high school late one night and put a Canadian flag on the flag pole along with the Stars and Stripes. Not hard to pick out which kid did it when there was only one Canadian in the entire school. ) I was from the Prairies and I loved my country and wanted to tell everyone about it. One of my teammates actually compared my patriotism to that guy everyone in the States knows who has two American flags hanging off of his porch and another one in the back window of his truck and whose favorite day of the year is the 4th of July. I didn’t take it as an insult though; I knew how proud of was of my country, proud to say I was Canadian and not afraid to show it off for everyone to see.

I never achieved my baseball dream of pitching in the Major Leagues, but when I returned home it gave me the opportunity to re-commit to a curling career. Since I grew up in small-town Manitoba, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that curling was already ingrained in me even before I left for the United States.

Curling is a sport for all ages and means a great deal to Canada. Go to any rink across the nation and you can see anyone from age 5 to 85 practising, playing, making ice, or helping run a club. Curling clubs are not big businesses. However, there are a myriad of people from all walks of life across Canada who make sure that the lights stay on and the ice stays in at these clubs. They give people the opportunity to play a truly Canadian sport. The Scots invented it, but what we have done in the last 100 years for the sport makes it our game.

Team Canada salutes the crowd after a win at the 2015 Ford Men’s World Curling Championship (Curling Canada/Michael Burns).

I firmly believe that the other reason Canadians are so drawn to this sport is that on the highest level we kick butt at it. Think about all the sport disciplines that someone can try—about how many of them would you truly say, “We’re consistently the best in the world at this,” or “It’s our game”? We as Canadians are often the underdogs in sport, but in curling we get to be the big dogs. It’s fun to root for #1 to go out there and expect to compete at the highest levels of sport and often win. It’s an emotion that Canadians don’t get to have that often, so when it does come along we cherish it and root for it to continue to happen.

That’s what truly drew me back to curling. I knew that if I achieved my goals in the sport I could not only become one of the best in the world, but I could do it wearing a Maple Leaf on my back. Experiencing how it feels to see your last name above the Maple Leaf, knowing that you are representing your country and expected to compete for gold medals was a dream that I had, and I cherish the opportunity I had to achieve it.

This year, I get to achieve my dream again in Halifax at the World Men`s Curling Championships. I get to put on the Maple Leaf and represent Canada on the world stage, and, for the first time in four World Championships, I get to do it on home soil in front of our fans. I know they expect us to win because Canada is supposed to win at curling, and that is our goal. But no matter what, whether we win a gold medal or not, I will cherish every second that I get to say I am a part of Team Canada.

A Context for Sportsmanship

Written by: Duff Gibson
Men’s Olympic (2006 - Turin, Italy) and World (2004 -Königssee, Germany ) Skeleton Champion
Twitter: @duffgibson

Canadian Men's skeleton rider Duff Gibson of Calgary jumps onto his sled during competition Wednesday Feb. 20, at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. (CP Photo/COA/André Forget).

When you see two kids’ soccer teams shake hands after a game, it’s usually for very simple reasons. It’s the polite thing to do and it may also be the policy of the league. Sportsmanship is encouraged in the same way parents encourage their kids to use their manners. The challenge however, arises when sport becomes more competitive, particularly in the case of contact sports. When young athletes are trained to be tough and aggressive and are constantly receiving messages about the importance of winning, sportsmanship seems less important and even counterintuitive at times.

That’s why it’s important to take a closer look at why we compete in the first place. I believe good sportsmanship is actually a sign of a healthy and ultimately more successful competitive mindset. An immense amount of time, money and expertise goes into sport in an effort to bring home the gold, but as renowned Canadian sport psychologist Dr.Terry Orlick points out, if it were only about winning, athletes would seek out weaker opponents rather than the top competition. As this is rarely the case, what else is at play here?

Being involved in amateur sport in Calgary, where so many national teams are based, has afforded me the opportunity to see first hand that many of the most successful athletes have similar values and/or attitudes about competition. I’ve been around these people enough to see them at their best and also when things don’t go according to plan. You see someone’s true colours when they fail and the best athletes I’ve known are great sportsmen and women when they win and when they don’t win. This suggests that sportsmanship is not a show, but who they are. It’s not just manners - it’s values.

Someone that I think of in this context is a Swiss skeleton slider named Gregor Staehli. Gregor remains the most successful athlete ever in my sport with 10 World and Olympic medals. I’ve had many discussions with him on the subject and would describe his competitive drive as being about the challenge of sport. If there was no challenge, if it was easy, there would be no reward. To Gregor, if he beat you because you had a bad day, there would be no value in it for him either. When he wished you luck, he truly wanted you to have your best race. Then, if you did and he beat you - that meant something. For him, it was no longer about a title or a record and even less so about another medal. It was about being your absolute best and facing great competitors who were also competing at their best.

Racing against Gregor in the environment he created was an honour and a pleasure, and on the few occasions I was able to beat him, he was always very sincere in his congratulations. After my first win internationally, what made the experience even better, was the support and sincere happiness some of my competitors had for my success. Gregor was a big part of that.

Ultimately I learned the greatest joy of sport for me also, lies in the challenge. When you come to this realization, you can wish your competitors well and even help them perform to the best of their abilities and in the end what you’re also doing is adding to your own sense of accomplishment if you are able to come out on top. In other words, sportsmanship isn’t counterintuitive to competition – it welcomes it, it encourages it, and perhaps most significantly, it has no fear of it. As a consequence, when an athlete adopts this mindset, they compete with a clear mind focused entirely on aspects of the sport that are in their control, and in the end, they dramatically improve their likelihood of success.

Canadian Tire Jumpstart: A Decade of Granting Kids Access to Organized Sport

By: Sharon Lassman
Strategic Partnership and Brand Manager of Jumpstart and Community Relations at Canadian Tire

Sharon Lassman is a passionate strategic thinker and communicator. Throughout her career she has worked with some of the world’s most influential brands including Apple, Microsoft, BlackBerry, and the NBA to name a few.

The benefit of physical activity to children is undeniable. From improved health and wellbeing to increased focus in school, sport has the power to change lives. Yet one in three Canadian families can’t afford to enrol their children in organized sport. That’s why Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities, its 1,900 Community Partners across Canada, and program supporters like the Government of Canada, are helping to close this gap.

This year Jumpstart celebrates its 10th anniversary of providing kids from financially disadvantaged families the opportunity to get involved in an organized sport or physical activity by covering the costs associated with registration, equipment and/or transportation.

Jumpstart has helped more than one million children across Canada to get involved in physical activity or sport.

Most recently, Jumpstart celebrated a huge milestone; helping one million children across Canada get off the sidelines and into the game. That’s one million kids in virtually every community across Canada who have been given the chance to develop the confidence, discipline, leadership and teamwork skills that come with participating in organized sport.

These skills set children up for lifelong success – children like Shanice McKoy.

At a young age, Shanice fell in love with sports and was a ‘natural’ when it came to basketball. Her mother, Alicia, was thrilled that Shanice had found her passion, but realized as a single-parent, she could not afford to enrol her in an organized basketball program. Alicia qualified for funding through Jumpstart allowing Shanice to play in an all-girls league.

Shanice continued playing basketball throughout high school and at 18 years-old was ranked the top point guard in Canada. She received a four year basketball scholarship to the University of Texas and has since graduated with a Bachelor of Science.

Shanice returns to Toronto each year to volunteer with the same all-girls league in which Jumpstart gave her the opportunity to play. From aspiring athlete to role model, Shanice’s story proves what kids can do when given the chance to play.

"Providing one million kids with access to over 76 different sports over ten years is an incredible milestone for Jumpstart and we do it because we believe sport means something to a child’s development," says Landon French, Executive Director, Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities. "We believe that every kid deserves an equal opportunity to play, learn and grow, and we’re looking forward to helping a million more kids in the years to come. "

About Canadian Tire Jumpstart:

From improved health and wellbeing to increased focus in school, sport has the power to change lives.

Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities is a national charity dedicated to providing kids from low-income families with the opportunity to experience the benefits of organized sports and physical activities. With an extensive, national network of more than 330 local chapters, Jumpstart helps kids in communities across Canada by assisting with the costs associated with registration, equipment and/or transportation. Supported by the Canadian Tire Family of Companies, which includes Canadian Tire, PartSource, Gas+, Sport Chek, Atmosphere, National Sports, Sports Experts, Mark's and Canadian Tire Financial Services, Jumpstart has enabled more than one million Canadian kids get in the game since 2005, and can’t wait to help the next million.

Follow Jumpstart on Twitter and Facebook to learn more.

9 Ways to Tell if your Child is Physically Literate

By: Jim Grove
Jim Grove is a senior contributing editor at Active For Life and a consulting editor to national sport organizations on physical literacy and Long-Term Athlete Development. He holds a degree in education along with NCCP certification as a youth soccer coach. Married with three children, he has 17 years experience coaching children and youth ages 5 to 18.

By definition, physical literacy comprises a complex blend of movement skills, physical awareness, cognitive understandings and even general attitudes about physical activity and sport. Researchers who study the subject produce sophisticated tests and measures for deciding who is physically literate and who is not, and they have a laundry list of criteria that they examine in the process.

But what about the average parent? Is there any quick way to assess if your child is on the road to developing physical literacy?

At the risk of oversimplification, Active for Life has produced a short list of nine simple physical tests and questions to assess the state of your child’s physical literacy. These questions describe a few of the simple abilities and attitudes that are commonly associated with physical literacy in early school age children.

In short, if you can answer yes to these questions, your child is probably making good progress in developing basic physical literacy. For questions where you answer no, your child probably needs some attention in that area. And if your child is nearing middle-school age and has difficulty with these tests, then there are significant skills and capacities they need to address.

Warning: Research scientists in physical literacy, please avert your gaze now. This article does not provide a comprehensive list of physical literacy attributes or testing protocols. This list is merely offered with a view towards giving mom and dad a quick glimpse of some of the qualities that comprise physical literacy.

1. Forward roll

Can your child do a basic forward roll on the floor? The forward roll is a basic gymnastic movement that demonstrates your child has developed a reasonable degree of flexibility and coordination, as well as proprioception (knowing where the body is as it moves through space). Simply understanding that they need to tuck their head to their chest is also significant in their basic understanding of the movement.

2. Flat-footed squat

Can your child do a flat-footed squat from a standing position and then stand up again? The flat-footed squat is considered a standard test of physical literacy by researchers and health practitioners. This movement indicates a blend of important qualities: flexibility, coordination and balance, not to mention strength. If your child has trouble keeping their heels flat on the ground while they descend into a squat all the way to the floor and stand up again, or if they lose balance and fall over in the process, your child needs to work on balance as well as flexibility, coordination, and strength in key muscle groups in the legs and core.

3. Swim (comfortable in water)

Can your child swim? Water is one of the four key environments of sport and physical activity, along with land, air and snow/ice. Swimming is the basis of a multitude of water sports ranging from competitive racing and diving to water polo and surfing, and it is also an essential skill for lifetime safety around the water. Pretty important when you consider that 75% of our planet’s surface is covered in water.

4. Throw a ball

It may seem a bit corny or simplistic, but the ability to throw a ball is a good general indicator of a person’s physical coordination and development of movement skills. It’s not just about being able to play quarterback for the New England Patriots in the NFL or pitch for the Blue Jays in major league baseball. If you consider how throwing was an essential skill for our distant ancestors who were hunting with spears or knocking coconuts out of trees by hurling stones, you can see how throwing has always been a natural part of our movement skill repertoire. It involves a complicated mix of balance and coordination between dozens if not hundreds of muscles, so it’s a good indicator of how much physical literacy a child has developed to date.

5. Strike an object
Can your child hit a ball with a bat? A puck with a hockey stick? A badminton bird with a racquet? See “Throw a ball” above. The same basic reasoning applies. Humans are distinguished from animals by our mastery of tools, and the great majority of our early tools were used to strike things. The only difference is that now we strike pucks and balls instead of other cavemen. (Sorry – cavepersons.)

6. Land from jumping

Watch your child as they jump from a low platform, tree branch or park bench and land on their feet. Do they land with their knees aligned squarely above their feet and flex smoothly into a squat? Or do their knees collapse inwards and their legs generally go sixteen different directions? If your child can land a jump reasonably well, then hopping and other fundamental movement skills are also probably little problem for them.

7. One-leg balance test

Ask your child to stand on one foot for 30 seconds without losing balance. Get them to put their hands on their hips and lift the knee of their non-standing leg as high as possible. Children often end up hopping all over the place and laughing because it is more difficult than it appears. The good news is that the challenge encourages them to practice and improve their time, so you are covertly promoting the development of their balance.

8. Confidence to try sports

Kids who have a reasonable degree of physical literacy feel confident trying a sport or physical activity that is new to them. They are confident because they know they have the basic skills in running, jumping and throwing to get started. And as time passes, they build further confidence as they experience additional successes in trying these new sports and activities.

9. Describe a movement skill or activity in words

In effect, verbal literacy is a part of physical literacy. Children who are fully physically literate should be able to describe their activity and movements accurately with the basic correct words. Why? Because words and naming used to describe movement reflect formal thinking and understanding of those same movements. It sounds a bit esoteric, but in truth it’s another good general indicator.

Did we miss something?

Do you think we missed an even more important fundamental skill for testing physical literacy? Leave your suggestion in our Comments section below, or start a discussion on our Facebook page.

This article is part of the Active for Life Raising Healthy Happy Kids series

10 Ways Raising a Physically Literate Child is Like Raising a Reader

By: Richard Monette
Richard is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Active for Life. His professional activities span the disciplines of business, sport psychology and education. He is part of the B2ten leadership team and leads the Active for Life initiative. Richard is married and the proud father of a 12 year-old boy and a 14 year-old girl.

In late August I picked up a local paper in a coffee shop. Looking at all the “back to school” inserts, my heart sank. “Summer is coming to an end,” I whispered as I scanned the advertising for binders, calculators, and sharpies.

On the last page a little card intended for parents caught my attention: “How to raise a reader”. After reading it I realized that I could easily replace the word “reader” with the words “physically literate child”.

So, to celebrate the collective sigh of relief from parents, also known as “back to school time”, here are 10 ways helping your child become a better reader and someone who loves to read are similar to helping them develop physical literacy and a love of being active:

1. Make reading/physical literacy a family value

Kids are born to play. They are born to run, jump, and skip. They learn by emulating what they see around them. Play as a family. Go out and enjoy learning new skills, activities, and games.

2. Let them read what they enjoy/do the physical activities they enjoy

Pleasure is the greatest incentive. Kids will do what they enjoy. They will also enjoy what they are good at. This means that they might repeat a game over and over. Support and reward all games, sport, or activity your kids enjoy. And make sure you play with them.

3. Be sure they are reading/playing at an appropriate level

Remember one simple rule as you support your child in activities and sports: every kid must do the right things at the right times under the right conditions. You don’t expect your first-grader to read Shakespeare, so don’t push them into doing physical activities that they are not ready to do. More importantly, don’t enroll them in programs that might be beyond their age. Instead, keep play simple and age-appropriate.

4. Don’t use reading/physical activity as a punishment.

I cringe when I see a coach or a PE teacher use physical activities as a punishment (“10 push-ups for being last.”). Reverse the trend. Promote play, games, and activities as a reward. As something special to be cherished.

5. Give books/equipment as a gift

Gifts are special. They spark excitement and kids’ imaginations. Try to give your child toys that will encourage them to be active and promote the joy of playing.

6. Let your kids see you read/be active for fun

You have a powerful modeling effect on your child. If your child sees you enjoying being active, then they will see games, activities, and sport as a normal and worthwhile part of life.

7. Don’t over-correct, don’t over-practice

One way to make certain your kids will resent reading is by pushing them to read perfectly too early. The same applies to their love of being active. Mistakes are a critical part of developing as a reader or becoming a physically literate child. Support, encourage, and guide your child.

8. Point out words/physical activity everywhere

Humans are born to move. We are physical beings. From the prima ballerinas to top athletes, we love to see great displays of physical aptitude. But don’t forget the everyday display of skills. Encourage your child to recognize these skills everywhere. Point out everyday examples of physical ability: “Look at that firefighter climbing the ladder. What skills does she need to do that?”

9. Set aside time for kids to read/be active on their own

Free play is essential for kids. Be sure to encourage them to play by themselves without a tablet or computer.

10. Fun, fun, and more fun

Not every child will become an avid reader or a world-class athlete. However, both literacy and physical literacy are fundamental to the development of your kids. Most youngsters are born with the capacity to read and move well, but like any other skill, it must be learned and repeated on a regular basis so that it becomes second nature. Fun and enjoyment are the secret ingredients to learning new skills.

This article is part of the Active for Life Raising Healthy Happy Kids series

Raising a Happy, Healthy, Successful Kid

By: Richard Monette

Richard is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Active for Life. His professional activities span the disciplines of business, sport psychology and education. He is part of the B2ten leadership team and leads the Active for Life initiative. Richard is married and the proud father of a 12 year-old boy and a 14 year-old girl.

I wear many hats in my life but at my core I’m always dad; a father who has hopes and dreams for my children. Their health, happiness and success are always front and center in my mind.

I’m not alone. We all want our kids to be happy, healthy and successful. But how do we know we are doing the best for our children? It can be daunting.

This sparked a key question for us: How can we make the complex task of raising happy, healthy, and successful kids simpler for parents? The topic has generated many great discussions at Active for Life.

Skills, skills, skills

In his book The Talent Code, author Daniel Coyle coins the phrase, “Greatness is not born, it’s made”. What he says is that greatness in any arena like school, music, sport and others, is an outcome of learning and practicing skills. In making this statement, Coyle is reflecting the current understanding in talent development around the world.

Major researchers agree that the genetics of a child play a role, but they are only a starting place. People are born with characteristics that could pre-dispose them for certain activities. A kid who stands six-foot-four might be better at basketball than gymnastics. But there is no such thing as a natural-born athlete.
In sport and other endeavors, skills need to be learned, and they can be improved through deliberate practice. With the right skills and practice comes success.

Four areas of skills development for success

If you look at it from the perspective of skill development, the task of raising happy, healthy and successful kids becomes easier to grasp. We’ve identified four skill areas that can be enhanced with deliberate practice: cognitive, social, emotional and physical.

The importance of acquiring solid cognitive, social and emotional skills is well established. Having a good education, being emotionally balanced and able to interact with others in a constructive and positive way are essential to success. These areas of development are something that parents appreciate as being important for their child’s wellbeing.

But while parents might agree that physical activity is important, many have yet to appreciate that it can affect much more than their child’s health.

What parents might not know is that kids who get regular physical activity and play sport, are not only healthier, but also get better grades, are better adjusted emotionally and have better social skills.

In other words, physical skills can be a multiplier for all the other skills your kids need to be successful. A child who is running and jumping and physically competent is also better cognitively, socially and emotionally.

Creating a movement

There are already many advocates and resources for the proper development of kids’ cognitive, social and emotional skills. Our mission at Active for Life is to help you develop your child’s physical skills and physical literacy so they can live complete lives.

The time has come for Canadian parents to know and share with others the fact that physically-literate children are better suited to handle any challenge they face in life.

It’s time for parents to teach their kids simple skills early, and it’s time to get our kids moving more and better at school.
Physical literacy is good for each individual child, but it’s also a gift to our future generations if we all make it a focus and priority now.

This is my dream for my children and yours: a generation of successful, dynamic and happy people who need less health care to live full lives.
Will you join us in making this dream a reality?

This article is part of the Active for Life Raising Healthy Happy Kids series

Active Together

By: Rochelle Bissett
Senior Program Officer, Sport Canada

Being a single mom who works at Sport Canada, I am constantly inspired to meet the challenge of ensuring that both my daughter and I remain active in sports and physical activity in a healthy and well balanced way. I am privileged to have at my fingertips all the information needed regarding the Canadian Sport for Life principles and the multi-sport experience. But knowing what is expected of us to ensure that we are both “Physically Literate” and “Active for Life” is quite different from putting it into practice!

I am lucky, I think, because my 8 year old daughter has already decided she will grow up to be an athlete and win lots of trophies and medals! So motivating my daughter to try various sports and be physically active is not my problem. The problem is how to balance all these various activities in a way that is affordable, that allows us to spend quality time together, and to provide me with the opportunity to also be active!

The answer came quite easily to me: be active together! So how would we achieve this? Well, it all fell into place when we realized that there was an open lane for adult swim in the pool where my daughter was taking swimming lessons. For many years my daughter and I enjoyed the experience of swimming together. It was wonderful. My daughter seemed much more motivated to get in the pool knowing that I was there and sometimes we could see each other under the water and give each other a smile and a high five. Afterwards we enjoyed showering and having a sauna together. It was a complete experience and became even more rewarding when my friend and her daughter decided to join us! At the end of it we would all go home in our pyjamas ready for bed.

However, this quickly came to a halt when the pool management decided to close the free lane swim during swim lessons. I was pretty devastated but I was resolved to find a way to get my weekly swim in. I decided to negotiate with the club where my daughter plays Water Polo. As a result, every week when I take my daughter to Water Polo, I no longer sit uncomfortably in the warm, humid air of the pool checking my smart phone over and over again. I now join the kids in the pool and do my swim while they are doing pre-game activities and then join them for the game! For those of you who have never played Water Polo (I never had) I discovered that it is a fun game that offers a complete and total body work out! My daughter and her friends are thrilled to have me on their team and I am becoming the fittest I have ever been since my youth.

The more active I become with my daughter, the more I want it to continue. But there are limitations in sports you partake in at the same time as your child. Not many clubs are quite as accommodating as my daughter's water polo club. This is why I created what I like to call “Sporty Sundays”. “Sporty Sundays” is a time that we have put aside to join my single mom friend and her daughter to do free, unstructured, spontaneous sport and physical activities together. Not only does this help save on the cost of registering for all the various sport activities my daughter wants to do, but it also complements the structured lessons of club sports by allowing our daughters to “play” more and incorporate the skills they have learned in the clubs. During the summer months we like to ride our bikes along the canal and visit various parks along the way. In September we participated in the free dance classes at the National Arts Centre for the “I (Heart) Culture Day”. Now it is tennis at the free city tennis courts around town while in winter we plan to use the free skating rinks and the various cross country ski trails around the city. Having a set time and a commitment with a friend ensures that we get out moving every week and having friends to hang out with makes the experience sociable and fun.

I am truly glad that I decided to jump into the pool and swim while my daughter was in swim class! It has led to a healthy lifestyle of being active together. Not only has it helped me become more active, but it has also provided valuable time with my daughter and has incorporated sport and physical activity into our daily lives. So next time you are sitting uncomfortably next to the pool, field, court or track waiting for your child to finish his or her class, think about what you can do to get active together, get you moving and provide valuable time with your child.

My Name is Chris Klodt

I SOLDIER ON SINCE 2009

By Christopher Klodt, Cpl (Retired)

In 2006, my life did a complete 180 degrees. I was six months into a deployment to Afghanistan with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. We were on patrol in the Panjwai district when we were suddenly ambushed, and I was shot in the neck.

That moment changed everything for me. My injury left me a C6 quadriplegic, meaning I have no hand or leg function, limited arm function, and no sensation below my chest. The rehab was long and difficult, and I often became frustrated. Luckily, I had an extra source of motivation: my wife was pregnant, and I was about to become a first-time dad.

One day in rehab, a therapist brought me a copy of Murderball, a documentary about wheelchair rugby for quadriplegics. Seeing the passion and strength of those athletes, I knew that someday, I had to try that sport.

I spent the next few years working through my rehab, and getting my independence back. In the summer of 2009, I decided to attend a Soldier On sports clinic and participate in the Army Run. When I got to Ottawa there were no rugby wheelchairs, but there was a racing wheelchair and a track coach. I loved the rush of speeding down the track. For the first time, I made an able-bodied person run to keep up with me!

During some downtime, I asked the coach about wheelchair rugby and, as luck would have it, his son played for the Ottawa team. I went to watch, and that night I was bitten hard by the rugby bug. With support from Soldier On, I soon joined a team in Toronto, and got my own specially-fitted rugby chair. I can’t begin to describe how much rugby has improved my life. Hanging out with other quads at tournaments has taught me to do things that I didn’t think were possible. For example, a group of us were talking about the difficulty of getting in and out of a bathtub. One of the other athletes looked at me and said, “No fears: just do it”. Those simple words got me thinking...I don’t fear anything, so why am I afraid of a tub? Now I’m in and out of the shower in fifteen minutes.

Now, it amazes me when I think about how far my life has come. I would never be where I am today without Soldier On.

My Name is Dr. Steve Daniel

I SOLDIER ON SINCE 2006

By Dr. Steve Daniel, Sgt (Retired)

I grew up in northern Ontario, and joined the Army in 1993. I served with the Royal Canadian Regiment for 14 years with tours to Croatia, Bosnia and Afghanistan.

I worked as a paratrooper for most of my career. As an Airborne soldier, you strive everyday to give your best. It was a rugged lifestyle that was very challenging, but incredibly rewarding.

In 2005, I was making a freefall parachute jump when something went terribly wrong. As I approached my landing I gained too much speed and landed on my tailbone, suffering a spinal cord injury that left me paralyzed from the waist down. At that point, I truly thought my life was over. I could not have been more wrong.

It wasn’t until I started getting active again that I realized there is life after injury. I connected early with Soldier On and was the first recipient of adaptive sports equipment. Soldier On sent me to Mt. Washington on Vancouver Island to try sit-skiing. It was this experience, early in my recovery, that really opened my eyes to the power of sport. Conquering Mt. Washington in a sit-ski became a symbolic event for me. I realized disability should not limit me from achieving great heights.

I was introduced to competitive sport at the Paralympic Sport Summit hosted by Soldier On in 2007. I quickly set my sights on becoming a Paralympian. Just two short years after my injury, I was able to make the National Adaptive Rowing Team and competed at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing. Once again, I found myself proudly representing our country – this time, wearing a new uniform.

I credit my early involvement with sport as the most important factor in my rehabilitation. The fitness I gained has allowed me to live a fully engaged life as a father, husband, and student. I no longer compete in sport but remain active by playing basketball, rowing and weight training. I’ve recently graduated from the Northern Ontario School of Medicine and will be specializing in Family Medicine. I hope to encourage my patients to maintain an active lifestyle.

My involvement with Soldier On was the stepping stone I needed to move forward with my life. To other ill and injured personnel, I offer this advice: As Canadian Armed Forces members, you understand what it is to be pushed to your physical and mental limits. I encourage you to draw on the strength and courage you once used in service of our country – use this strength to maximize your abilities, and find new ways to Soldier On.

My Name is Dominic Larocque

I SOLDIER ON SINCE 2006

By Cpl Dominic Larocque

Cpl Dominic Larocque, Member of the National Sledge Hockey Team

It all began in 2007, in the Panjwai District in Afghanistan, where I was deployed with the 3rd Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment. On November 27, while on patrol, I was wounded when an improvised explosive device hit the vehicle that I was riding in. But thanks to the work that my brothers in arms did to save me, I’m here to tell you my story.

This incident changed my life. I spent several weeks in the hospital recovering from my wounds, the most serious of which involved the amputation of my left leg above the knee. I then had to begin a long process of rehabilitation that eventually enabled me to start doing simple things like stand up and walk again. This whole process took about eight months, during which I suffered many complications and had to have further operations.

In September 2008, I put my uniform back on and went back to work with the 3rd Battalion’s reconnaissance platoon, and a few months later, as a first-aid instructor. In December 2009, I was introduced to sledge hockey by the members of the Montreal sledge hockey team.

One year later, thanks to the Soldier On program, I had the chance to participate in an event that coincided with the Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia. This event introduced injured military members to the various sports that people with disabilities can play. I also got the opportunity to watch several of Team Canada’s sledge hockey games live and even got to play sledge hockey on the Vancouver Canucks’ home ice! It was at that point that I decided to participate in some competitions.

Six months later, I was invited to the national sledge hockey team tryout camp, which was held at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa. To my great surprise, I was selected to the national sledge hockey team and had the chance to play this sport all over Canada, as well as in the United States, Europe, and even twice in Japan; winning three gold, one silver, and one bronze.

I realized my goal of competing at the Paralympic Games, winning a Bronze medal in Sochi, Russia in 2014. I want to thank the Soldier On program for everything that it has given me, including helping me realize that I can still move even though I am missing a leg. It is never too late to start moving and Soldier On will be there to help you do it!

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