“Watch for me in 2010”: Aboriginal Youth Sport Talent Identification Events

Seventy-five Aboriginal youth athletes gathered at the Squamish Nation Recreation centre in North Vancouver on October 21, 2005 to participate in the pilot of the Aboriginal Youth Sport Talent Identification event. They were invited to act as sport ambassadors to their communities, They were also invited to participate directly in an event that would offer them the chance to learn more about what it takes to be a sport champion, and potentially, future Olympians.

Looking spectacular in their ‘Watch for me in 2010’ t-shirts, the Aboriginal youth, ranging in age from 12 to 21, were welcomed by 2010 Legacies Now, VANOC and the Four Host First Nations.

The event included watching motivational footage of 2010 Winter Games sports, meeting members of the First Nations Snowboard Team and hearing inspirational talks by both male and female Aboriginal athletes of the year for Canada, Richard Peter and Lara Mussell Savage.

“I feel honoured to be a part of the Aboriginal Youth Olympic Sport Challenge,” said Mussell Savage, who is also a VANOC employee. “There are so many talented Aboriginal youth out there and it feels great to recognize and celebrate their abilities. The youth are the real inspiration behind this event.”

The youth were divided into groups and rotated through the ‘challenge stations,’ which included tasks such as the box jump, 30m sprint, vertical jump and beep test. Many supporters, including community recreation leaders, coaches, parents and family members, were also present to support, encourage and cheer on the athletes as they competed.

The various testing stations were facilitated by Pacific Sport staff with the help of Aboriginal youth (who received previous training). The tests were designed to help assess athletic ability in the various winter sports. Youth identified as having competitive results could then be invited to sport-specific camps.

Initiatives such as the Aboriginal Youth Sports Talent IDs help increase the likelihood that Aboriginal athletes will make it to the podium, be it in 2010 or beyond. “An Aboriginal athlete on the podium would be a dream come true for all of us,” said Mussell Savage. “It would mean so much, in that it would increase our sense of pride and prove that no dream is too big.”

While the event largely focused on the challenge stations, it was designed to do more than simply identify athletic talent. Fifteen year-old athlete Angie Point, of the Musqueam Nation, said, “I was honoured to be invited to represent my community. It meant a lot to me, and made me want to do a good job. I was inspired to train harder and to never give up on what you believe in.”

Since the first Talent ID was held, there have been five additional events involving more than 200 youth participants.

“I believe there are athletes out there who have the skill and the talent. Hopefully, they will fight through some of those barriers, whether they be racial or just tough situations, and make it to the top.” – Richard Peter, Paralympian