Coaching group shares mental health resources at Indigenous hockey championships in Winnipeg
The National Aboriginal Hockey Championships tournament that hit the ice at the Seven Oaks Arena in Winnipeg this week is a chance for 15 teams to compete for first place — and for one organization to promote mental health in sport.
The Coaching Association of Canada is at the tournament for youth under 18, to spread the word about a free mental health and resource hub for coaches and players.
It's part of an initiative the Ottawa-based organization, which is partly funded by the federal government, launched in February, said marketing manager Sarah Min. The resource is a way to help coaches get comfortable talking about their own mental health and to have those kinds of conversations with players, she said.
The hub, which is available on the coaching association's website, has information on a range of topics, including eating disorders, anxiety, depression, stress and supporting players after a concussion.
It includes videos, training modules, infographics and activities that coaches or parents can do with athletes or for their own self-care.
"Coaches are essentially like a parent to a lot of students and young athletes," Min said.
"We just believe that by empowering coaches and giving them the tools, that maybe they'll feel a little bit more educated and empowered to have those conversations and know how to navigate their way through some of the tough situations."
Timothy Bear was among those wearing one of the organization's pins with the phrase 'mental health is our sport,' while watching his niece compete in the championships on Tuesday.
Bear, who has coached hockey and has four kids who have played in the tournament over the years, said education around mental health in sports can be huge.
"It's not just on the ice, it's off the ice too. You want these kids to be good citizens, you know, good hockey players … have a good life after the game, right?" said Bear, who's from Ochapowace Nation in Saskatchewan.
"Sometimes [it's] just that conversation with them and how you have that conversation with them."
Ches Cardinal, senior manager of programs and education for the Aboriginal Sports Circle, which helps run the championship tournament, said the organization has partnered with the coaching association on its mental health initiative.
She said the hub is a particularly crucial resource for coaches in Indigenous communities, who are often playing many different roles in areas where she said mental health concerns have skyrocketed since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
"They're teachers, they're counsellors, they're sometimes bus drivers and chaperones to our athletes," Cardinal said.
"Having a resource like this, it gives people a little bit more support dealing on the frontlines with these individuals and with these athletes to support them."
Cardinal said the initiative is available in several languages, including Cree, Inuktituk and Dene, which helps forge a point of connection for Indigenous athletes.
"I just want them again to feel connected to a community that's going to support them further," she said.
The National Aboriginal Hockey Championships started on Sunday and runs until Saturday.