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Tristen Amyotte, 26, has been coaching for the Living Skies Indigenous Basketball League for two years – coaching both the junior and senior boys’ divisions.

But he never had the opportunity to sit down with another experienced coach, and gain their insight on how to coach youth under the age of 18.

Aboriginal Friendship Centres, SK

“Since I started coaching, I have relied on my own past experience from playing basketball, and doing research online to learn how to progress as a coach,” says Amyotte.

In 2023, Amyotte and his fellow coaches within the league were given additional training and support through the league’s Coach’s Mentorship Program, which was made possible thanks to the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association’s Reaching Each and Every One: A Community Sport Intervention program. This program, which was funded by Sport Canada’s Community Sport for All Initiative, seeks to remove barriers and increase sport participation rates for equity deserving groups across Canada.

Coaches taking part in Canada Basketball’s Learn to Train coaching course

The Aboriginal Friendship Centres of Saskatchewan’s Living Skies Indigenous Basketball League started in 2020, and is the first ever provincial-wide Indigenous youth basketball league in Saskatchewan. It serves youth ages 11 to 17 in communities across the province including Saskatoon, Regina, Prince Albert, and North Battleford. While the Indigenous community is its focus, in the spirit of reconciliation, it welcomes all athletes and coaches that have a passion for basketball.

Paige Crozon, central manager of the basketball league, says the program has brought in more than 1,700 players and 70 volunteers since it started three years ago.

While the program has supported youth by helping them better access basketball in their communities, she says there was a need for the league to also support the people who lead these youth: their coaches, many of whom are Indigenous.

“What we have found is that at the end of every season, our coaches always ask for more support – they want more courses and more training. They want to be in the best position possible to support the kids,” Crozon says.

The funding allowed the league to provide their coaches these supports through its Coach’s Mentorship Program. As part of the program, the league brought on coaches from across the province, as well as Canada, to work with the league’s coaches and senior division athletes. Transportation was provided, as was child care, to help eliminiate barriers to participation.

Amyotte says he had a mentor coach who attended basketball practice with him every week. He was able to ask his mentor questions, and get general advice about coaching.

Mentee coaches also took coaching courses and workshops, where they learned about leadership and the tactical side of basketball.

“The opportunity to learn from this program has given me a lot of confidence in my ability to coach, and has motivated me to continue coaching basketball in the future,” Amyotte says. “This experience has meant a lot to me, and it was a huge eye opener.”

Coaches, Jade and Tayten with their team at the Provincial Championship

Before this program, Crozon says that many of the league’s coaches didn’t know where they could access training to improve their skills. This funding helped them overcome those barriers, she says, and its impact will be felt on the courts.

“What we always find is coaches don’t know where to start. Maybe they didn’t have the safe space where they could come in and feel welcomed – and also be vulnerable enough to share that they might not know everything, but they want to learn,” she explains.

Crozon adds that the mentorship opportunity was also provided free-of-charge for the coaches – helping remove financial barriers they might face to accessing this kind of programming.

Now that coaches like Amyotte have been given this opportunity, Crozon says they are well positioned to become mentors themselves in a couple of years to budding coaches within the league, and the province.

“We feel very confident with Tristen becoming a mentor, and supporting the next generation,” she says. “This funding has allowed us to build our people within the league to help with sustainability of our programs.”