Once again this year, the Aboriginal Sport Circle (ASC) has recognized four individuals who personify what the organization is all about: developing Aboriginal athletes, coaches and community sports leaders through a holistic approach, focusing not only on developing them physically, but mentally, spiritually, and culturally as well.
Each of the four national award recipients -the male and female recipients of the Tom Longboat Award and the male and female recipients of the National Aboriginal Coaching Award-have not only excelled in their chosen sport, but have channeled the same dedication they give to their game towards helping Aboriginal youth achieve their personal best.
This year's Tom Longboat Award recipients are Tara Hedican and Shawn Bobb.
Tara Hedican, a member of the Eabametoong First Nation in Ontario, has been involved in women's freestyle wrestling for nine years. In 2001, she was the World Junior Champion, the National Junior Champion, the CIAU (Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union) Champion, and Most Valuable Player.
In addition to her wrestling accomplishments, Hedican is also a level two certified coach, a mentor, and a referee, and is a second-year history student at Guelph University.
Shawn Bobb is a member of the Spuzzum Nation in the Nlaka'pamux territory in B.C. Bobb, who will graduate from the University of British Columbia with his law degree in May, was co-captain of the University of British Columbia (UBC) men's soccer team this past season when the team took silver at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championships in Halifax.
His team mates named him Most Inspirational Player, and he was recognized as a First Team Canada West Conference All Star, and named to the Tournament All Star Team. Bobb is also a member of the Westside Soccer Club, which was a silver medallist at the National Club Soccer Championships held in Saskatoon in October 2000. He also was involved in the UBC's summer soccer camp program, working to teach and motivate camp participants.
The recipients of the 2001 National Aboriginal Coaching Awards are Jill Mathez, and Bob Kowal.
For over a quarter of a century, Jill Mathez has been involved in sports in Manitoba. The Metis woman from Winnipeg is one of the most highly certified Aboriginal female hockey coaches in the country, certified to the advanced II level. Mathez is the head coach of the University of Winnipeg's women's hockey team, and is also head coach for the female hockey team representing Manitoba in the First National Aboriginal Hockey Championships taking place in April.
In addition to her coaching duties, Mathez also travels across the province to hold hockey clinics for young Aboriginal players. In all her coaching work, she takes a holistic approach to player development, concentrating not just on developing an athlete, but the whole person.
Bob Kowal is a member of the Shoal Lake First Nation in Ontario and teaches school in Kenora, Ont. He works to motivate Aboriginal youth both in the classroom and on the volleyball court, where he has coached school teams to a number of provincial championships. He also coached the bronze medal team at the Manitoba provincial league championships.
Although he's coached a number of his school's teams to victory, his main emphasis remains on education, and has helped many of the athletes he has coached to receive athletic and academic scholarships.
The four recipients received their awards in Toronto on March 26, as part of the Canadian Sport Awards ceremonies. This is the third year the awards presentation have been part of the national event.
"I think it's a real honor for the athletes and coaches to be among so many other mainstream, accomplished leaders, and Olympians for that matter," said Gina Doxtator, program manager for the ASC of the awards ceremony. "They were quite honored to be there."