FREDERICTON (CNB) – Four apprentice coaches will be joining Team New Brunswick athletes participating in the upcoming Canada Summer Games in Prince Edward Island. The four will be joining the team under the Women in Coaching and Aboriginal Apprenticeship programs, which offer coaches the opportunity to pursue training, and learn from their more experienced peers. The apprenctices are:

  • Jay Peters, Aboriginal apprentice coach with the women’s basketball team;
  • Sheila Francis, an Aboriginal apprentice coach in athletics;
  • Jennifer Butler, a Women in Coaching apprentice in athletics; and
  • Paula Murchison, a Women in Coaching apprentice in swimming.

The programs provide apprentice coaches with domestic multi-sport experience at the Canada Games. For Butler, the opportunity to participate in the Canada Games comes as she has formed an athletics club in Bathurst, and is helping local students at Bathurst High and Superior Middle School.

“I’ve always had an interest in track and field,” said Butler. “I raced when I was younger, and I still run. I was involved in athletics, but I hadn’t taken a certification program. I was a cross-country coach for four years, and now I work in nearly all disciplines of track and field. I have eight athletes in my club, and two of them are trying out for the Canada Games team.”

Originally from Fredericton, Butler has completed her certification and is looking forward to the upcoming Games. “It will be my first time at the Canada Games as a coach,” said Butler. “I volunteered in ringette at the 2003 Games in Bathurst and Campbellton, and I really enjoyed it. I’ve also attended other competitions.”

Developed in collaboration with the Aboriginal Sport Circle and the Coaching Association of Canada, the Canada Summer Games Aboriginal Apprentice Coach Program provides Aboriginal apprentice coaches with domestic multi-sport Games exposure, and increases the number of qualified coaches in Aboriginal communities.

Francis, an Aboriginal apprentice coach from Burnt Church, will also be teaming up with the athletics coaches. Her interest lies in sports management for First Nations people. “I don’t have much coaching experience, but I have the theory, and I’m going to take advantage of my experience at the Canada Games to learn from other coaches, and from elite athletes as well,” said Francis. “I’m doing research to find out what obstacles prevent young Aboriginal people from playing sports. It will be my first large-scale sporting experience.”

Francis previously ran two 10-kilometre races, and played intramural sports at university. She became interested in athletics after finding out that after a certain age, Aboriginal youth leave sports, and she wanted to know why. She also wanted to learn about the stages an athlete must go through before reaching the elite level.

“I’ve just started on my National Coaching Certification Program, and it’s my first experience in this area,” said Francis. “I want to learn all the steps and work with the Aboriginal Sport Council to develop programs that would get our young people interested in sports activities.”

The Aboriginal Apprentice Coach Program will make it possible to broaden the pool of Aboriginal coaches who can coach Games-calibre athletes. All apprentice coaches who participate will be given a specific and meaningful role on their team, and will receive guidance on interacting with the athletes and the coaching staff to ensure that positive and constructive relationships are developed. They will be given comprehensive training before the Games, and their continuing professional development will play a large role in the overall success of the program.