Barriers to coaching: Perspectives from Mi'kmaq First Nation coaches


Indigenous coaches play an essential role in educating Indigenous youth about the value of sport and contribute towards facilitating strong relationships between sport and culture (Bennie et al., 2019). Unfortunately, Indigenous sport participation is hindered by a lack of Indigenous coaches (Sport Canada, 2005). Research from Australia suggests Indigenous coaches report feelings of inequality and exclusion from legitimate positions of leadership, due to their Indigenous identity (Apoifis et al., 2018); but Canadian Indigenous coaching experiences are not well researched. Using the integrated Indigenous-ecological model (Lavallée & Lévesque, 2013), this presentation explores the perceived coaching barriers reported by Mi'kmaq First Nation coaches from Nova Scotia. Eight Mi'kmaq coaches participated in an individual, semi-structured interview that ranged between 45 and 75 minutes. The interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and thematically analyzed. The findings indicate three major barriers that negatively impact the Mi'kmaq coaching experience: racial profiling preventing coaching opportunities, a lack of culturally appropriate coach education, and Western and Indigenous stereotypes creating further divisions in sport. These findings are consistent with the literature exploring the experiences of Indigenous coaches in Australia (Apoifis et al., 2018). We discuss how the integrated Indigenous-ecological model functions as a decolonizing framework to reduce coaching barriers by integrating Mi'kmaq ways of knowing (e.g., medicine wheel teachings) across each ecosystem to promote more inclusive and culturally relevant coaching experiences for Mi'kmaq First Nation coaches.

Acknowledgments: We respectfully acknowledge that we live, work and play in Mi'kma'ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi'kmaq People. This territory is covered by the "Treaties of Peace and Friendship" which Mi'kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) people first signed with the British Crown in 1725. The treaties did not deal with surrender of lands and resources. They recognized Mi'kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) title and established rules for what was to be an ongoing relationship between nations.