Local coach relays the importance of amateur coaching to federal committee
Wild Rose MP Blake Richards hosted area sports experts in Ottawa to speak to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, Feb. 25.
Airdrie representatives Jamie Atkin, club manager and head coach of the Airdrie Edge Gymnastics Club and Shane Esau, an exercise physiologist, spoke via video to the committee, which is currently studying the status of amateur coaching in Canada.
“As a member of the Heritage Committee, part of my duties include supporting our work by locating expert witnesses, ” said Richards. “Airdrie is blessed to have many residents involved in youth and high-performance amateur sport, and I know it was difficult to choose only two representatives from the list from my home city.”
Atkin, who began his career with the club in 1994, has coached several athletes, including Airdrie resident Corissa Boychuk, to national and world championships.
He said the experience was interesting.
“I am really, really pleased that they are looking into this,” he said, adding the role of a full-time professional coach is relatively rare in Canada.
Atkin said the role of amateur sport coaches is critical for engaging youth in sport. However, there are a number of things that make it difficult to train and retain high-level coaches including the hours required, work-life balance issues and salaries.
“Within the career, there is a good chance that some of the very basic things that people need to survive are lacking,” he said.
Atkin said Airdrie gymnasts are lucky to have a world-class facility and really active community to support them.
“But the facilities don’t matter if you don’t have the people to coach them,” he said.
Atkin said speaking to the committee was a positive experience, although he prepared himself for a different conversation before realizing the members were just kicking off the conversation about amateur sports.
Atkin said he had expected detailed question to add to the committee’s understanding of the subject.
Atkin told the committee he would like to see more recognition of coaching as a career.
“The professional coach who is involved in amateur sport is a relatively unknown entity in Canada,” said Atkin. “(Gymnastics is) a highly technical sport, so it involves a great deal of training. The volunteer parent/coach is a wonderful thing to have, but in our sport it’s not really a reality.”
Shane Esau, a former researcher at the University of Calgary’s Human Performance lab and High Performance Director for Canadian Blind Sports, echoed Atkins comments.
He also emphasized the importance of multi-sport training for children.
“I think if we go to the education route, where we’re teaching our kids to be physically literate, those kids who are going to make it are going to make it,” Esau told the committee. “(Teaching kids) how to skate, how to swim, how to throw a ball and kick a ball, that’s what we need and then the cream will rise to the top.”
Richards was appointed to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage this winter. The study of amateur coaching in Canada is expected to last for several more weeks.