About a dozen track and field coaches gathered for a clinic at Diamond Jenness Secondary School over the weekend and learned the basics of the sport as well as effective ways to train young athletes in it.
“We have a really good level of performance at a national level,” said Rita Moizis, a Grade 6 teacher at Princess Alexandra School. “But I’m here because I really want to build the stepping stones to go higher and make sure our kids have really solid basic skills.”
The clinic, held May 3-5, offered the first level of certification – also known as Sport Coach – in a five-level system in the National Coaching Certification Program.
According to Joe Leblanc, president of the NWT Track and Field Association as well as head coach for the NWT track and field team, Hay River hosts a minimum of two such clinics a year – one in the spring and one in the fall, and sometimes a third in the winter depending on demand. This fall, the second level, that of Club Coach, will be offered in which participants can decide to specialize in either sprints and hurdles, jumps, throws, or endurance events.
“We’re getting ready for the upcoming season,” Leblanc said. “Though we’ve been involved in the indoor season over the winter, this is when it all starts gearing up for the summer events.”
Participants in the clinic learned the basics of a variety of track and field events, like shot put and high jump, but also warm-up exercises and some valuable tips on building confidence in young athletes.
“Whenever I have a group of kids doing high jump, I make them try it out and sit on it,” facilitator Barb Vida said of the elastic serving as a bar for practice. “If they don’t try it, sometimes they can think it’ll hurt if they hit it or land on it, and they can’t jump properly if they’re scared.”
The participants were mostly from Hay River, but a few came in from Fort Providence and Yellowknife. They ranged from young athletes eager to help out with their younger colleagues to teachers and recreation co-ordinators looking for a better understanding of the sport.
“It’s all about the kids,” said Moizis. “I love being there to see and help with the development of their individual talents as they discover them.”
Hay River track and field athletes have seen quite a bit of success in the last few years, medalling in multiple events at important national meets, but Vida remembers when the sport had far less presence in the town.
“When I came three years ago to give this course, we had three, maybe four people signed up,” she said. “This year, we almost had to turn people away because I can’t take on any more than 15.
She credits Leblanc’s tireless organizing efforts with the sport’s rise in popularity, and despite his modesty on the subject, the results are clear. On May 9, seven Hay River athletes leave for the 2013 Nike High School Grand Prix, hosted by the University of Toronto, and next month people from all over the NWT will descend on Hay River for the annual NWT Track and Field Championships.
In spite of the heady national success of local athletes, Moizis sees a benefit for all children participating in the sport, whether they make it to that level or not.
“The point of whatever sport is to give kids the opportunity to expand their abilities and be healthy,” she said. “If I can help them do that, I certainly will.”
— Sarah Ladik