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When Alex Nelson was in residential school in Alert Bay, there was one spot he felt at home and free to be himself — the soccer pitch.

“To get away from that building, that institution, the staff, the smell, the whole shebang, the one grace I had was always the soccer field,” Nelson said Thursday. “It allowed me a freedom to just be outside with that soccer ball and with my teammates.”

Nelson lives in Victoria and at the age of 69 still plays on senior men’s teams. But his real passion is coaching young people, with a special fondness for teaching young aboriginal people.

He was thrilled with an announcement Thursday from the provincial Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development for a new medal to honour outstanding young aboriginal people.

It’s to be called the Premier’s Award for Aboriginal Youth Excellence in Sport. It will be awarded to 12 people under 25, six men and six women, at the 2016 Gathering Our Voices event in Victoria, March 21-24.

Working with the B.C. Association of Native Friendship Centres, the First Nations Health Authority and Métis Nation B.C., the medal criteria were established to honour achievement in sport, leadership and community commitment.

Nelson’s cultural home is with the people of Musgamaqw-Dzawada’enuxw of Kingcome Inlet on the B.C. Mainland. He assisted in establishing the criteria and is especially proud it will honour the whole person, not just the athlete.

“It really tries to honour the holistic well-being of a person, those people who are also academic achievers, community connected and culturally driven,” Nelson said.

“And I really love that it will be recognized at a provincial youth gathering,” he said. “When you can get honoured among your own peers, it really adds something.”

Nelson agreed young aboriginal athletes can have a tough time taking full advantage of the benefits sports can bring.

Leaving home with a scholarship or even to pursue a pro career can be an enormous culture shock when you are from a small community with a unique culture and a heavy emphasis on family.

But Nelson also said First Nations home and community can always help, even those members who leave.

For example, he has two nephews from Alert Bay area who went far with soccer, one who joined the Winnipeg Fury and one who played in England and returned to play with the Vancouver Island Vistas.

“And when they are away, they phone home as much as they can,” Nelson said. “When they come home, we celebrate and we do it in a cultural way and that gives them a sense of belonging.

“I use the word ‘spirit,’ and for me it means a real strong connection,” he said. “Young people can take the spirit of our people, of their family and community, and they can take it with them and it will keep them grounded.”

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Aboriginal children in north Simcoe will soon have 28 new programs to jumpstart physical activity, thanks to $525,000 in funding from the Ontario government.

Starting Jan. 1, kids 12 and younger will be able to participate in free activities such as fishing, swimming, snowshoeing, a toddler gym and wilderness camping. Transportation programs will be available for all activities.

“(The goal is) to increase children’s health through physical activity, reduce the amount of screen time and increase healthy eating opportunities and skills,” said Jessica North, Chigamik Community Health Centre program co-ordinator.

Chigamik is working with several First Nations organizations to implement the programs. North Simcoe is one of 45 places selected for the three-year Healthy Kids Community Challenge initiative. It was one of six communities chosen across Ontario.

Locally, the first phase will run from the start of the new year to June 30, and the entire project will end in March 2018.

“It’s exciting. It speaks to how we can do more as a community,” North said. “A lot of aboriginal organizations are underfunded. We have a group of children that don’t have equal access.”

Chigamik hosted a community event Nov. 23 in Tay Township to get a better understanding of the recreation and physical-activity interests, needs, barriers and participation patterns of First Nations children. About 50 kids and their parents took part in focus groups and obstacle courses and designed vision boards about their ideal communities, North said.

She said organizers found children prefer group-based and outdoor activities. She added spending money to transport them to recreational activities is also a major concern.

“We could be taking money out of their food budget for the week,” she said, adding free transportation was built into the new programs to address this concern.

North said she hopes the project will be a shining example for other municipalities: “(We can inspire) greater advocacy for the greater aboriginal community.”

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Aboriginal Sport, Recreation and Physical Activity Partners Council announced its 2016 Player Selection Camp and Team BC Coaching Staff for the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships. Team B.C. is seeking a manager for the male team, while the female team is looking for an assistant coach and manager. Applications are currently being accepted. Deadline to apply has been extended to 5 p.m. (PST), Jan. 27. The assistant coach application can be found online at: https://aboriginalsportbc.wufoo.eu/forms/team-bc-2016-nahc-assistant-coach-application/. The team manager application can be found at:https://aboriginalsportbc.wufoo.eu/forms/team-bc-nahc-2016-manager-application/. For the assistant coach position, coaches of Aboriginal ancestry that possess a minimum of coach level and/or coach stream NCCP certification are eligible to apply. For more information regarding these volunteer opportunities, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Top Aboriginal male and female hockey players are invited to participate in the 2016 selection camp where players will be evaluated and selected over a three-day period by the coaching staff. The camp will be held April 8-10 at the Matsqui Recreation Centre in Abbotsford. The fee is $120 per player and will include a selection camp jersey. Pre-registration is mandatory as no walk-ins are accepted. Online registration will open on Jan. 15 at www.teambcnahc.com. Players must meet the following criteria to be eligible: resident of British Columbia and be of Aboriginal ancestry (First Nations, Inuit, Métis), registered or eligible to be registered with BC Hockey. (Players currently not registered with BC Hockey may be registered via this camp for an additional fee of $40.) Male: Bantam or Midget age, as of the 2015/16 competitive season (born 1998 to 2002). Female: Bantam or Midget age, as of the 2015/16 competitive season (born 1998 to 2002 inclusive) and those born 1996 to 1997 inclusive (as the female team can carry up to two overage players).

The NAHC is the premier forum for elite bantam and midget-age Aboriginal hockey players from across Canada. It is the only annual national event that showcases and celebrates the athletic abilities of Aboriginal athletes from across the country and aids in fostering cultural unity and pride.

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In its efforts to improve the quality of sport and physical literacy for all Canadians, the Sport for Life Society, in collaboration with Aboriginal partners across the country, has been developing the Aboriginal Long-Term Participant Development Pathway. One of the key contributors to the project is Alwyn Morris – Olympic gold medallist and Aboriginal leader – and Sport for Life is excited to announce that Morris will deliver a keynote speech and panel presentation at the 2016 Canadian Sport for Life National Summit.

When Morris stood on the podium at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics to accept his gold medal in two-man 1000-metre kayak, the Kahnawake Mohawk held an eagle feather in the air. The feather represents honour, friendship and life. In that moment Morris filled Canadians with a sense of pride and accomplishment – and Aboriginal Canadians in particular. Morris has continued to represent and inspire Aboriginal people ever since.

Morris received the Order of Canada in 1985 for outstanding service and achievement, and has served with the Canada Games Council, the Canadian Sport Secretariat, and was a Special Policy Advisor for Aboriginal People and the Constitution to the Rt. Hon. Joe Clark during the Charlottetown processes. Morris received a National Aboriginal Achievement Award in Sports for both his accomplishments and the example he set.

Hear Morris share his story by attending the Summit, which takes place January 26–28 at the Hilton Lac-Leamy in Gatineau, Quebec. Learn more, and register, at canadiansportforlife.ca/events/CS4L-Summit.

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On Thursday, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), and Deloitte launched Game Plan - a high performance athlete wellness and transition program designed to give Canadian athletes new tools to pursue excellence during and beyond their sporting careers.

The COC and Deloitte also announced the renewal of their partnership through 2032 - an unprecedented term of engagement, highlighting Deloitte's positive impact on the sport system in Canada. The COC also announced today that human resources leader, Morneau Shepell, is partnering with the organization through 2020 as an official supporter and founding partner of the Game Plan program, providing a suite of mental health services to athletes.

The Game Plan program, which is supported by the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC), Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Sport Institute Network (COPSI Network), has a goal to provide Canadian athletes with resources for life beyond sport. This new initiative which has been near three years in development, takes a proactive approach to total athlete wellness. It is designed to alleviate life's common stressors and distractors, allowing athletes and coaches to focus on performing when it matters most.

The Game Plan program takes the very best information from all of its partners to cultivate an elite ecosystem of resources all in one place. Game Plan advisors will form part of the integrated support teams for athletes, working alongside sport scientists and performance experts. Game Plan Advisors are skilled in supporting athletes, drawing on their knowledge of high performance sport, career development, transition planning and goal-setting.

Both Olympic and Paralympic athletes and hopefuls will be encouraged to access the five distinct elements of the Game Plan program, which include: education, skill development, health, network, and career management. Each element is then made up of various pertinent modules - 33 initially, with others being added as the program evolves. Some examples of specific modules and resources that will be available to athletes include:

- Career Management - a job board featuring flexible work opportunities for athletes
- Network - a mentoring program set up between transitioning athletes and next generation hopefuls
- Education - specialized training opportunities and flexible class schedules at participating institutions
- Skill Development - conferences and webinars educating athletes on personal and corporate brand management, public speaking skills and financial planning
- Health - access to mental health support 24/7 and mental health awareness training.

Ease of use and accessibility for athletes will be key to the program, with all resources being consolidated in a new website at www.mygameplan.ca. Specific resources will be delivered in multiple platforms at convenient times including through conferences, digital applications, one-on-one counselling, and group sessions.

Game Plan is now available for athletes, with modules for each element becoming more comprehensive as the program grows and develops.

For more information on Game Plan, please visit: www.mygameplan.ca

QUOTES

"Game Plan is a game-changing program for our high performance athletes. Designed by leading experts from the ground up with athletes and for athletes, it delivers a program they have been in need of for years. It gives athletes the power to take control, build their own path to the podium on the field of play and plan their exit strategy off it. We are giving athletes the right tools they need to succeed at sport and in life."
Christopher R. Overholt, CEO, Canadian Olympic Committee

"We are thrilled to expand our involvement with the COC through the development of Game Plan. Having worked closely with the sporting community to determine our athletes' needs, we've developed an incredible program that will position athletes for continued success both within and outside of sport. Our renewed partnership with the COC through to 2032 will allow us to really make an impact on the future of sport in Canada and on the continued pursuit of Canadian excellence."
Frank Vettese, Managing Partner and Chief Executive, Deloitte

"Morneau Shepell is excited to announce its designation as official mental health partner and official supporter of the Canadian Olympic Team, and founding partner of Game Plan. Our expertise in designing and providing mental wellness programs for a diverse set of organizations and their people makes this partnership both a natural and logical extension of our business activities. Game Plan as a total athlete wellness program provides an unprecedented combination of resources and support to elite athletes, encouraging their best performance both during and following their careers representing Canada on the world stage." Alan Torrie, President and CEO, Morneau Shepell

"The IOC is very happy to support the work of the COC in their holistic efforts to help their athletes both on and off the field of play. Athletes are at the heart of the Olympic Movement and remain the central focus to everything the IOC does. Initiatives like the Game Plan, IOC Athlete Career Programme and Athlete Learning Gateway provide invaluable assistance to athletes before, during and after their sporting careers to ensure they achieve lifelong excellence."
Claudia Bokel, IOC Athletes' Commission Chair and IOC Athlete Career Programme Steering Committee Chair

"This is an incredible and ground-breaking initiative by the COC and its partners that will dramatically change the landscape of sport in Canada for the better. This total athlete wellness program will ensure more seamless transitions, help our athletes compete longer and will motivate more Canadians to pursue their Olympic dreams knowing that this program will ultimately help to ensure both high performance athletic outcomes, and high performance careers after sport."
Rosie MacLennan, two-time Olympian, London 2012 gold medallist

"Game Plan is an incredible undertaking and one that the COC and its partners should be so proud of. Canada is certainly breaking ground with this program, ensuring athletes are developed holistically while equipping them for life beyond sport with all the resources and support they could need."
Jeff Christie, two-time Olympian,COC Athletes' Commission Chair and Board of Directors Member

"On behalf of the Canadian Paralympic Committee, we are very pleased with the development of this world-class initiative that will help all of Canada's high performance athletes achieve their full potential, both on and off the field of play. Working together as Team Canada, this exciting program will provide athletes and coaches with resources to enhance their pursuit of excellence at every stage of their athletic and personal lives, building role models and heroes to inspire all Canadians."
Gaétan Tardif, President of the Canadian Paralympic Committee

"The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Sport Institute Network is proud to be a partner in the Game Plan program and to be the driving force in the delivery of the program to athletes across the country. Game Plan furthers the COPSI Network's aim of delivering world-class sport science and sport medicine services to Olympic, Paralympic and high performance athletes by empowering them to plan for their career and life after competitive sport, ultimately reducing stress and distractions so they can focus on their current goals in order to perform to their maximum potential. This is an unprecedented program and truly showcases the power of the high performance sport system in Canada."
Debbie Low, CEO and President of Canadian Sport Institute Ontario, on behalf of the COPSI Network

"I'm really looking forward to exploring the many innovative resources being offered with this program and I know many of my fellow athletes will feel the same. As athletes representing Canada, we leave no stone unturned in our quest for the podium, and we apply equal passion to the rest of our life in pursuit of personal and professional excellence. Thank you to all partners involved in this project for their dedication to athlete wellness."
Benoit Huot, four-time Paralympic swimmer, 19-time Paralympic medallist

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Jan. 26, 2016 to Jan. 28, 2016
Gatineau, Quebec

The Canadian Sport for Life National Summit brings together leaders who work to enhance the quality of sport and physical activity in Canada. Canadian Sport for Life recognizes that quality sport and physical activity offer rich benefits to Canadian society through improved health, stronger communities, higher sporting achievement, and stronger national identity. By improving sport, Canadian Sport for Life aims to improve the lives of all Canadians.

The 2016 Canadian Sport for Life National Summit will take place January 26 - 28 at the Hilton Lac-Leamy Hotel, in Gatineau, QC Canada.

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Nov. 3, 2015
5:30pm
John M.S. Lecky UBC Boathouse, Richmond, BC

Organized by ProMOTION Plus, the British Columbia non-profit organization solely dedicated to increasing opportunities for girls and women in physical activity and sport, the In Her Footsteps event recognizes women who have made significant contributions to the sector through their athletic performance, by enabling others to excel through coaching, or fostering growth in sport as a builder.

This year ProMOTION Plus will honour three women: Mary Macdonald, Coach – Volleyball and Athlete – Basketball; Patti Hunter, Builder – Women in Sport; and Laurel Crosby, Builder – BC Wheelchair Sports. There will also be special presentations to the 2015 Women’s National Soccer team and to Naomi Wasler, recipient of the Bobbi Steen Legacy Foundation Award.

Join us as we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of ProMOTION Plus at the 10th Annual In Her Footsteps event. For more information go to www,promotionplus.org.

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