Leadership for Empowering Engagement
As we prepare for a big trip to Chelsea, Quebec this week, our coaches and kids in our club are engaged with the exciting prospect of visiting a new place, reacquainting ourselves with friends, and fired up with anticipation of a fulfilling, fun, and engaging socio-cultural and athletic experience. Every year or two for the past number of years, our ski club has embarked on an exchange with another club somewhere else in Canada. Last year our 1999 birth year skiers travelled to the skiing development hotbed of Whitehorse, Yukon to spend a week embedded in Yukon ski culture and hospitality. This year our 2000 and 2001 birth year kids are heading east, back to Chelsea, Quebec for 9 days of immersion in the unique culture of the Outouais region, and visiting national landmarks in Ottawa, our national capital.
These initiatives are driven by volunteers and coaches in our ski club who know the value of gifting kids with the unique opportunity to travel and ski with other kids in other places. This year, 1988 Olympian, coaching colleague, and good friend, Carol Gibson-Coyne has done the remarkable feat of organizing our families both when the Chelsea kids were in Canmore for 9 days in December, and also helping with the organization of our 9 days in Chelsea. The herculean effort to pull off an exchange like this is noteworthy of immense praise; but the benefactors of the effort are the children in our club who receive the incredible experience.
Carol's effort is typical of coaches and parents who want to engage kids with something worthwhile; a gift to children to give them an experience that might hook kids on skiing for the long term. Kids will decide themselves what their future will be and no amount of coercion or influence can make a child do something they dont want. But positive experience, framed appropriately, supported with care and enthusiasm, reinforced by the joy inherent in physical activity, fostered by relationships aimed at advancing engagement, with an emphasis on improvement, fitness, and skill development are the types of factors that help make it easy for kids to say - 'hey this is for me'.
Occasionally these types of things all come together and what happens, I think, is something magical. I had this type of conversation with a coach this past weekend at Alberta Winter Games. The coach I was chatting with is an ambitious coach wanting to create something spectacular for kids from her community. She was seeking advice as to what we've done in my club to create an environment where kids have fun and where they ski really well and are super engaged with racing. I do have to say, as a coach with our Alberta Winter Games team from south central Alberta region, that it was impressive what our kids did. Gold medals in all five relay categories as an example. What I was particularly impressed with, with our kids from Canmore, Cochrane and Bragg Creek, was what they did when they weren't racing. They were playing card games, board games, taking care of each, laughing lots, supporting each other, getting to bed early, mentoring younger athletes, and just having alot of fun. Sure they worked on a race plan and they focused on their best effort in races, but they were also super nice kids who thanked officials (alot of whom were their parents or grandparents as the event was held in Canmore), were friendly with kids from other clubs and super respectful of adults. Wow - what a lucky dude I am to be here in this community.
The fact is that great energy and small things you do can make a difference in your own community. The fact is that Canmore wasnt always a hotbed for cross country skiing, someone built this energy here, and although I might do small things to contribute to it, the real credit goes to our current leadership (board and head coach) for creating a space where kids flourish. I see this work happening in lots of places. Be patient, it takes time and effort.