- BC Games
Athletic training — with pull
There hasn’t been a First Nations Olympian compete in a paddle sport since Alwyn Morris, a member of the Mohawk Nation, won gold in the K2 1000 m race in 1984. But change may be on the horizon.
On Sept. 4, Jason Anson, a sport technologist, along with Sandy Willmott, a professor at the University of Lincoln, will open an exclusively First Nation paddle club with its own training centre, right here on the shores of Cowichan Lake.
Called Pullers Canada, Anson says the facility “will use cutting-edge technology to support the pullers in all aspects of their development and connect them with sport scientists and coaches through the University of Lincoln in the UK.”
However, the training centre also has another purpose: to give marginalized First Nations youth access to participation in paddle sports in a culturally relevant way by not only bridging that gap, but by creating new, one of a kind, online sports sciences education resource materials.
Faced with poverty, poor nutrition, and lack of access to funds that would provide the infrastructure needed for training and equipment, these youth are living with the after effects of the residential school system. Anson says that the Aboriginal Paddling Initiative currently utilized by CanoeKayak Canada does not adequately address these cultural differences and the needs faced by many First Nations youth.
“Pullers Canada is aiming to provide the emotional support, insight and understanding that will allow these youth to overcome many of the barriers they presently face,” says Anson. “It is with this support and guidance we hope many of these youth will be able to step forward, with pride and confidence, onto the world stage of sport.”
A short-term goal of the centre is to bring a team of First Nations youth, picked from tribes across Vancouver Island, to the North American Indigenous Games in 2014. A long-term goal is to eventually see a First Nations puller once again participate at the Olympics.
To do this, Anson and Willmott are developing what they are calling their First Nations Cultural Athletic Development Plan.
Anson says that First Nations pullers have many questions when trying to enter the sport, questions which are not addressed by the CS4L Long-Term Athlete Development model adopted by CanoeKayak Canada and B.C.
“Simply applying the policies and procedures used for mainstream, or white, Canadian athletes to the First Nations case will not, and has not, worked,” says Anson. “Potential pullers struggle to learn about the necessary selection processes and the associated events, let alone meet the requirements of participation in those processes.”
Last year, Anson helped brothers Robin Mack Jr., and Kyle Mack from Nitinat, along with Cory Campbell and Alex Campbell from Duncan become the aboriginal paddling champions for the 2012 season. Brandon Edgar won four titles in the U19 category.
If you are a First Nations youth living on Vancouver Island and you would like to become part of this project, or if you would like to learn more or to support the program, visit pullers.ca.