Mua Va’a (left) and Alex Nelson talked about barriers to Indigenous sports and how to overcome them during a symposium at Royal Roads University.                                (Lindsey Horsting                                /News Gazette staff)

Mua Va’a (left) and Alex Nelson talked about barriers to Indigenous sports and how to overcome them during a symposium at Royal Roads University. (Lindsey Horsting /News Gazette staff)

Lack of parent coaching barrier to keeping Indigenous kids in sport

Spirited discussion for Indigenous sport symposium at Royal Roads

Royal Roads University hosted a symposium for advancing human rights through sport, with a spotlight on Indigenous groups.

The symposium identified people, milestones and events that shaped human rights through sport, and discussed barriers and solutions to overcome them. More than 25 people joined the discussion, talking about what they have encountered and where they think it’s going.

The workshop was for a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council funded project by the primary investigator, Angela Schneider, on advancing human right through sport.

One of the panelists, Mua Va’a, originally from Samoa, has lived in Canada for 27 years and is married to an Indigenous woman. He is a youth co-ordinator for a local First Nations community and has three children that play sports and explained that a grassroots foundation for Indigenous athletes is important for them to be able to excel and have the opportunity to play at a higher level.

Va’a said one of the barriers to sport for Indigenous people is getting parental help to coach, and financial restrictions. He feels there are not enough parents, and once children get older, certified parents available to coach and help keep kids involved in sports.

Va’a coaches rugby, and wanted to know how to develop the sport within the Indigenous community.

He coaches U18 boys and U16 girls and discussed the problem of losing the best Indigenous players to Canadian provincial and national teams, because Indigenous groups can’t provide opportunities for athletes on such a grand scale and was looking for suggestions on how to accomplish this.

Alex Nelson, founder of the Aboriginal Sports and Recreation Association of B.C., talked about the importance of tribalism and Indigenous athletes maintaining a connection to one another through sport. He recounted two First Nations soccer teams that joined forces to create one super team to compete at Island championships and take the top spot to head to provincials as there was only one berth for the Island.

Another panelist, Joleen Mitton, has been organizing aboriginal basketball tournaments in Vancouver for over a decade. She started the All My Relations tournament as a response to the term aboriginal not being completely inclusive of all First Nations people. Montana Howe, the former Claremont Spartan and UBC basketball standout holds her Métis card, and Mitton said because of Howe’s blonde hair and blue eyes, other players did not want her playing in an aboriginal league. Mitton wanted full-inclusion of Indigenous peoples and changed the name so it was clear that everyone under that umbrella was welcome. Howe, a Grade 5 teacher at St. George’s in Vancouver, coaches the U17 Vancouver Indigenous girls basketball team and last summer she represented Vancouver in the World Indigenous Games.

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