By TRT Staff with notes from Indigenous Sport and Wellness Ontario
MISSISSAUGA – Indigenous Sport & Wellness Ontario (ISWO), Ontario’s official Provincial/Territorial Aboriginal Sport Body (P/TASB) confirmed on July 28 of the intention to take a contingent of more than 500 Indigenous youth to compete at the 2023 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Recognized by both the NAIG Council and the Aboriginal Sport Circle (the national voice for Indigenous sport in Canada), ISWO is the designated organization for the development, selection and management of Team Ontario for participation at NAIG 2023.
“The announcement of new dates for NAIG has brought so much hope and excitement to youth, families and communities across Ontario, and indeed, across Turtle Island,” says Marc Laliberte, President of ISWO. “Sport is not only about playing the game or winning; sport is also about healing. It’s a pathway that supports youth to build confidence, enhance skills, increase connection (both to themselves and others), and link the past, present and future. NAIG is a truly special event, one that celebrates who we are as Indigenous Peoples, while providing hope to future generations. We all need this now, more than ever – to heal, to come together and to dream. We are honoured to have the job of preparing the Ontario contingent that will participate and compete at NAIG 2023.”
The 10th edition of the Games, originally scheduled to take place in the summer of 2020 but postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is now set to take place from July 15 to 23, 2023 in Kjipuktuk (Halifax) and Millbrook First Nation, Nova Scotia, as recently announced by the NAIG Host Society.
NAIG 2023 is expected to host more than 5,000 Indigenous athletes (between the ages of 13-19) from across Turtle Island, competing in 14 sport competitions (and two additional demonstration sport categories) and showcasing the rich cultural diversity and traditions of Indigenous peoples from communities across North America.
Prior to the postponement, ISWO was on track to lead a contingent 500 strong, representing all regions of the province, to compete in 14 sports. Team Ontario projections for 2020 included 30 Head Coaches, 28 Assistant Coaches and 14 Managers, in addition to a team of chaperones for the 442 team of young Indigenous athletes, that were expected to attend from communities across Ontario. With the new age categories announced for 2023, ISWO will need to review its projections and make any necessary adjustments. The age eligibility for athletes for NAIG 2023 are as follows: 19U – 2004 and later, 16U – 2007 and later, 14U – 2009 and later.
While ISWO understands everyone’s excitement in learning more about the plans for Team Ontario’s tryout dates, coaching staff announcements and training opportunities, ISWO wants to communicate with interested youth and families advising that it will take some time to reassess, adjust planning and create a new schedule that will produce the very best representative team, Ontario has to offer. ISWO is also currently looking at public health guidelines to ensure that all upcoming planning for Team Ontario, is done with the safety and well-being of the athletes at the forefront.
ISWO’s first step will be to reconfirm its coaching staff and team managers with the organization holding a public call-out to fill any gaps identified in coaching or team manager positions. Once the coaching and management positions have been confirmed, ISWO will work to create a tryout schedule, in collaboration with team managers and coaches, to ensure that all eligible athletes in Ontario, have the opportunity to tryout, apply or be identified.
Given the longer lead time, and the tremendous amount of work that ISWO was already able to complete prior to the postponement of NAIG 2020, the organization is confident that it can host the majority of tryouts required by the fall of 2022, leaving the following winter and spring open for team training, invitationals and provincial tournaments – giving teams and athletes the opportunity to come together and practice – prior to attending NAIG 2023.