The AACP allows the apprentices to experience coaching at an elite level multi-sport event. This type of atmosphere allows young coaches to witness the magnitude of the Canada Games and what it takes to coach at this level – and learn from the best coaches in Canada. The Aboriginal apprentice coaches are provided with professional development and learning opportunities to prepare them for high-level coaching and increase their level in the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) to a minimum of Competition–Development. Therefore, this experience gives them the resources to achieve their dreams of one day being a head coach at the Canada Games, and any other provincial, national, or international tournaments.
For each Province and Territory in Canada, the program allows two coaches of aboriginal ancestry to be sent to the Canada Games as an apprenticeship coach. This program would not be possible without the partnership between the Aboriginal Sport Circle (ASC), the Provincial/Territorial Aboriginal Sport Bodies (PTASBs), the Provincial/Territorial Coaching Representatives (PTCRs), the Canada Games Council (CGC), and the Coaching Association of Canada (CAC).
During the 2013 Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, QC, there were 12 Aboriginal apprentice coaches who were given the opportunity to be exposed to the Canada Games environment. Brian Bennett, from Stoneville, NL, made an exceptional impact in Sherbrooke. Brian has been playing volleyball at high school, university, and club levels for 21 years – since he was in grade eight. However, it was in grade twelve, 17 years ago, that he discovered his passion for coaching.
“I started out coaching our junior girls’ varsity volleyball team in high-school and progressed into coaching at Provincial team levels for young age groups as an assistant. Then I moved up to head coach at the same level,” Brian said. “Then moved on as an assistant to Luke Harris at Memorial University, and then as an apprentice coach for the Newfoundland men’s volleyball team at the 2013 Canada Summer Games.”
Currently living in Seal Cove, NL, Brian has been coaching at the high school and club levels, as well as taking on the head coach position for the Canada Games men’s volleyball team – which will be playing in the 2017 Winnipeg Summer Games.
“I truly believe that volleyball is the ultimate “team” sport. Great individual talent is obviously still an asset as in other sports, but I do not believe it can be as successful as in volleyball, due to the number of contacts and speed of the game. Every action in volleyball is one hundred per cent reliant on teammates. As a result, team chemistry and cohesiveness are much more important and makes it the favourite part of the sport for me. The explosive and dynamic nature of our sports actions during every rally are a close second.” Brian said, explaining his favourite part about volleyball.
Brian has made sports a huge part of his life. Not only has he played volleyball, but he has also competed in other sports including; basketball, soccer, football, ball hockey, badminton, tennis, ultimate Frisbee, and ran track and cross country. He tried to coach basketball, but it was short-lived due to his time commitments with coaching volleyball and non-sport activities.
Coaching volleyball was the right choice and change that Brian needed to get on the right path. When he was in high school, playing on the senior volleyball team in Brampton, ON, Brian says he was close to making a few bad decisions and life choices.
”My coach at the time, Diana Frehs, recognized this fact and went out of her way to make sure my time was filled and asked me to help her with the junior girls volleyball team at our school. It was during that time that I realized I took great pleasure out of helping people improve and wanted to give other people the opportunity to grow as individuals the way that Miss Frehs did for me. To this day, I try to teach character and decision making, as much as I do volleyball skills – and it all relates back to Miss Frehs,” said Brian.
Before the 2013 Games in Sherbrooke, QC, the Canada Games head coach of the Newfoundland and Labrador men’s volleyball team, Luke Harris, reached out to Brian about the apprenticeship program. Brian noted that if it had not been for Harris’s offer, he would not have known about the program and could have missed the opportunity altogether – and would not be where he is now as head coach of Newfoundland`s men`s volleyball team for the 2017 Canada Games.
The Games immersed Brian, for the first time, into a multi-sport event and elite-level coaches. The focus that was required during this time was intensive and consistent. Coaches would utilize their skills in game planning, video preparation, nutrition, proper sleep patterns, and rest and recovery, to prepare athletes for their playing times to maximize the success of their teams. The learning opportunities were endless for Brian and all the apprentice coaches. For Brian, the most important thing he learned during his time at the Canada Games was the importance of versatility. Coaches and athletes need to adapt to different styles of play, during matches against different teams. A strong offence and defence in this sport is highly effective – athletes learn to exploit an opponent’s weakness and make adjustments when their opponent exploits their own weakness.
“While it is important to have a core system and value certain principles,” Brian said, “there must be flexibility within those systems to make adjustments, and you must have athletes who are capable of implementing these adjustments.”
Coaches like Brian are the ones that better their athletes both physically and mentally. Their passion strives from helping others succeed and guiding them to greatness. These types of coaches should be recognized through the apprentice program – where they can be challenged and inspired to pursue their coaching aspirations and achieve goals they never thought possible. The sustainability of sports programs like the Canada Games relies heavily on an abundance of talented coaches, who can bring Canada’s elite amateur athletes to the next level. Without these types of coaches, athletes wouldn’t receive the proper learning and direction that’s needed to compete at a high level. Sports have a unique ability to bring people together who have the same goal – that sense of unity is what makes the AACP and their involvement at the Canada Games so remarkable.
Brian encourages all aspiring coaches to apply for the apprentice program. The experience of coaching in a massive multi-sport event is like no other. He says that the feeling of pride you get from representing your province in an event of this magnitude is a feeling you cannot replicate and he can only imagine representing your country to be a better feeling. Brian says he would go out of his way to try and convince young coaches to go after the goal of coaching at the Games.
For Brian, there are two people who he highly looks up to as his role models, his teacher, Deon Goulding, and his father, Hayward Bennett. Both individuals have helped to foster different characteristics in Brian, which has helped to develop him into the successful coach he is today. Deon has been his mentor for the past 10 years, for volleyball and life. Deon has coached at the high-end level and played professionally with Canada’s national volleyball team. Brian says that Deon has helped grow the sport of volleyball in the Province of Newfoundland since he returned from playing professionally and began coaching. Deon will be joining Brian as an assistant coach at the 2017 Summer Games. Brian’s father, Hayward, has taught him to never settle and to always go after his dreams – no matter how much work and effort it took, and has encouraged Brian to learn and grow from his mistakes. This, among many reasons, is why Brian is determined to be successful in coaching and anything else he pursues in life.
“I really enjoyed the Aboriginal apprenticeship program. The leadership conferences and the training modules were all very relevant. As a result of being part of this program, I decided at some point in my career I want to coach at a North American Indigenous Games. While my mother is from Arviat, Nunavut, my time immersed in the Aboriginal community is more limited than most that were in the program. What I did notice at the modules is I have been very privileged with the opportunities I was given by the Newfoundland and Labrador Volleyball Association and the Newfoundland volleyball community as a whole.” Brian commented.
Brian is an example of what many of the Aboriginal apprentice coaches can achieve when they work hard to accomplish their goals. Over the past eight years, this program has become a key foundation to building elite level coaches and enhancing their careers. For this reason, the Aboriginal Apprentice Coaching Program is extremely vital to the development of coaches and has brought talented coaches, like Brian Bennett, to where they are today.
Athletes rely heavily on their coaches to improve their performance for high level tournaments and to further their careers as professional athletes. As Brian mentioned, his desire to be a coach doesn’t only stem from his passion of sport, but his passion to help people. Coaches bring much more to the table than simply receiving results on a scoreboard. Coaches act as mentors, advisors, role models, counsellors, motivators, and are our very own cheerleaders. They also work to encourage and instill positive thinking, teamwork, resilience, a good work ethic, and respect and love for the game in every athlete on their team.
Regardless of the level of competition, coaches play so many pivotal roles in an athlete’s career – all of which develop an athlete and allow them to reach their full athletic potential. Sports play an integral part in human development and the influence a good coach can have on their athlete’s life can go beyond the field of play; these coaches have a unique opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life.