Tag Archives: Coaches

How the Black Canadian Coaches Association was born from George Floyd’s death

There is an equation St. FX women’s basketball Lee Anna Osei continually instills in her players. 

It reads E+R=O. Event plus response equals outcome. The idea is that if you respond to an event in the right way, the outcome will turn out favourably.

Osei, known as Coach Lee to her players and friends alike, has witnessed firsthand the lack of minority coaching hires across the Canadian sports landscape.

But that’s more of a long-standing fact than an event. And so a response never followed.

Then George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, sparking a worldwide racial reckoning and increased calls for racial justice by the likes of Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James and Canadian WNBAer Natalie Achonwa.

Those three in particular spurred Osei to a response: the formation of the Black Canadian Coaches Association (BCCA).

“I considered this a passion project to start. But then in realizing the change that it really can have, it’s not just a passion project of mine. It’s a passion project for hundreds of thousands of people,” Osei said.

The BCCA intends to increase opportunities for BIPOC coaches in Canada through its principles of networking, celebration and advocacy through allyship.

CBC Sports visual audit

In July, a CBC Sports visual audit revealed that only about 10 per cent of 400 top positions at 56 Canadian universities are held by a Black person, Indigenous person or person of colour.

“Everyone sees this as a gap that needs to be addressed — not just in Canada. We need to do better. But how we do that is probably the challenging thing right now,” Osei said.

In addition to initiatives such as the Black Female Coach Mentorship Program and The Racial Equity Project, the BCCA plans to maintain numbers on how many coaching positions in Canada are filled by minority candidates. Nothing official on that front currently exists.

Osei says the organization is also hoping to secure funding from the federal government.

Osei, 30, grew up in Toronto’s Jane and Finch neighbourhood. She says she first picked up a basketball “because honestly, it was either a ball or probably something not as positive.”

WATCH | Bring It In’s Black History Month book recommendations:

Morgan Campbell, Meghan McPeak, and Dave Zirin suggest some readings for February as we celebrate Black History Month. 5:08

One of Osei’s first coaching influences was her Grade 6 principal who co-starred as basketball coach. Now, she’s put together a 12-year coaching career herself.

“The most passionate, the most impactful, the most helpful people I’ve met have all been coaches, and that said something about the Canadian context of coaching because there’s not a lot of professional jobs out there,” Osei said.

Corey Grant wants one of those jobs. Currently the offensive co-ordinator of McMaster’s football team, Grant, first and foremost, says he wants the pandemic to end so he can return to the field. 

But the former CFLer would also like to rise the ranks and chart a path for future Black athletes and coaches.

“Representation matters because you want to see what you can be. And sometimes if we’re seeing lack of representation at different levels, especially in coaching and then head coaching, as a player and as a former player, I start to think, ‘Well, maybe I can’t be that head coach.’ As an athlete, you never want to say ‘can’t,’ said Grant.

Grant, 44, grew up in Stoney Creek, Ont., near Hamilton. He spent 11 years as a CFL receiver from 1999-2009 with the Tiger-Cats and Saskatchewan Roughriders, winning a pair of Grey Cups in the process.


Corey Grant says the BCCA is important so that young, prospective Black coaches can see a path to the job. (Courtesy Corey Grant)

In the years since, Grant has begun his coaching career, going from McMaster receivers coach to Tiger-Cats running backs coach and back to McMaster in his current role.

As a player, Grant said his sole focus on playing made him block out the various microaggressions he encounters every day as a Black man.

“Sometimes you shake it off because, hey, I got to focus on the game, I got to focus on practice. And now you start to realize, you know what, that’s not good for your mental health,” Grant said.

High school memory

Certain incidents can’t be blocked out though, such as one high school memory Grant says he recalls like it was yesterday.

It was after a school dance and Grant noticed a crowd packed with screaming people in the parking lot. As he walked towards the noise, some classmates stopped him: “don’t get him,’ they said, “leave him, he’s an athlete.”

“It was some guys wearing swastikas and beat up some South Asian kids and ripped off their turbans and beat them to a pulp in the parking lot. You felt helpless. You couldn’t do anything,” Grant recalled.

Grant went home and punched his garage door out of frustration. It was the only thing he could do.

As assistant director of the BCCA, Grant aims to prevent that feeling of helplessness among Black children — specifically daughter Qiawna, 12, and son Devonn, 10, who are both aspiring athletes.

“It’s doing it through advocacy, through our relationships, through celebration and networking, because sometimes there’s that thought of, ‘it’s just me going through this. Nobody else is there with me. I have to deal with this,’ and then that’s where that mental health piece comes in,” Grant said.


Grant won two Grey Cups as a CFL player with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Saskatchewan Roughriders. (The Canadian Press)

Grant’s parents were his first coaching inspirations. Father Lynford was a steel worker and mother Hermine worked various jobs when Corey was growing up, but now runs a nursing home.

Their hard work stuck with Corey, who is the oldest of four siblings, plus two foster sisters and a foster brother.

As a player with the Tiger-Cats, Grant met Bernie Custis, the first Black professional quarterback in the modern era, and first-ever in the CFL.

Custis, who played with NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown at Syracuse, is also one of few Black head coaches in Ontario University Athletics (OUA) history.

“None of the [current football] head coaches in the OUA are of colour. So then who is having those conversations and leadership position with the players that are on their team? Who is having those conversations about George Floyd, social justice and injustices and equity?”

OUA announces task force

In August, the OUA announced the creation of a Black, biracial and Indigenous task force to emphasize diversity throughout the conference.

The desire to educate is perhaps what drew Grant to Osei and the BCCA. Having one centralized network to disperse information to coaches throughout Canada could become an invaluable tool.

Not to mention the work the BCCA is hoping to do in providing more opportunities for BIPOC coaches.

“Our goal is really simple,” Osei said. “We’re going to use the platform and leverage other organizations and individuals who believe in our mandate to find the very few people of colour in leadership positions and we want to celebrate them and we want other people to know, hey, that can be you.”

Grant watched recently as just two of seven open NFL head coaching positions went to BIPOC candidates. Eric Bienemy, the Black offensive co-ordinator of the Kansas City team going for its second straight Super Bowl, has now been passed over two years in a row.

Grant says how Bienemy handled that adversity is something he’s drawing from as he waits for his own head coaching opportunity to arise.

“I’m not satisfied with where I’m at, but I’m content right now with where I’m at,” Grant said. “I’m going to continue to move forward. And when it’s my time, I’m going to be ready to shine.”

Since May, a common reprieve in the fight for social justice is that the conversation can’t be left as a moment — it must be a movement.

Osei takes that one step further.

“It’s not a movement. It’s a lifestyle. It’s understanding that this system was built on systemic oppression. And there are so many tangible ways that can combat it.”

“We’re not pointing the blame here. We’re just stating a fact.”

With the BCCA, Osei’s response to systemic racism in Canada is well underway. And if E+R=O holds firm, a positive outcome should follow.

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CBC | Sports News

How all-Canadian division coaches, players plan to guard against predictability this season

A degree of contempt is expected to grow between the seven teams in the NHL’s all-Canadian North Division, but the number of times the clubs play each will also breed some familiarity.

The shortened NHL season has each team playing a 56-game schedule within its division. Some of the Canadian clubs will see each other nine or 10 times.

During a 14-day stretch within the first month, the Vancouver Canucks will face the Montreal Canadiens five times, with a three-game series against Ottawa squeezed into the same period.

The Winnipeg Jets will face the Calgary Flames four times in the first nine days of February.

WATCH | CBC Sports’ Rob Pizzo ranks the all-Canadian division:

For the first time, all 7 Canadian teams will be in one division. Rob Pizzo predicts which four will make the playoffs. 5:47

Most players and coaches agree the games will have a playoff feel about them, but teams will also have to guard against becoming predictable.

“For all the teams you are going to have to come up with different sort of strategies and ways to mix things up, especially when you are seeing a team three times in a row,” said Flames captain Mark Giordano. “Little things like the way you kill penalties or the way you are on the power play, the way your faceoffs are drawn up. Teams are going to be able to scout that.

“You are going to have to change things up and have a lot of different plays in your book. It’s going to be exciting.”

Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice said having a Canadian division is “going to be fantastic. The message boards are going to be awesome, funny as hell.”

It also means coaches will be tested on their ability to make subtle changes without completely deviating from their schemes.

“You have to be real careful about how many times you are going to change your grip on your golf club because you are going to get a different trajectory every time,” Maurice said. “You have to play well, play hard, but I do agree you are going to have to be fairly creative in how you approach the game.”

Vancouver Canucks coach Travis Green said teams are constantly adjusting for opponents.

“There are wrinkles that you throw into your team for a game, but there are certain things, certain staples that every team has that [indicates] how they play,” he said. “You don’t want to go change your whole system from game to game.

“I think it’s perfecting a system that works for your team. There are different things [you can do], faceoff plays, on special teams, certain things you can change.”

‘Different for everybody’

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid said players will have to adapt.

“You’re going to have to learn on the fly,” he said. “It’s going to be different for everybody.”

Vancouver forward Brock Boeser said the schedule reminds him of his college days playing for the University of North Dakota.

“You have to learn from game to game,” Boeser said. “You watch film, you have to adjust to what you didn’t do right in the game before and make sure you don’t make those mistakes again.”

WATCH | NHL season begins amid rising COVID-19 cases:

The NHL season returned to the ice on Wednesday with many questioning if it was the right decision amid rising COVID-19 cases. The league is hoping the season will go off without a hitch, as businesses that rely on the games are looking for ways to save their bottom line. 2:01

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said reducing the number of opponents will make coaches focus.

“It allows you to just zero in on a very small number of opponents, you get to know them very well,” he said. “It frees up so much more time just to focus on our own team.”

Edmonton’s Dave Tippett said the compressed schedule will keep coaches concentrating.

“Sometimes you get into the regular season, games flow into each other,” he said. “Every game [now] is going to be so important. The competition is going to be stiff.

“I think it’s going to be a playoff mindset coaches are really going to dig into. It’s going to push coaches to be better.

WATCH | CBC Sports’ Rob Pizzo breaks down 9 NHL talking points:

Rob Pizzo identifies the key things to watch as the season begins. 1:54

Vancouver forward Antoine Roussel, one of the Canucks who plays the game with an edge, said scores will be quickly settled.

“It’s going to be more edgy every night,” he said. “You see the same guys all the time.

“If something happens in game one . . . in game two you may have to answer the bell. The emotion and the fire in the games are going to step up, maybe linger longer.”

Playing more games against teams from the East will also give more exposure to young Canuck stars like Elias Pettersson and Quin Hughes.

“I don’t think our guys sometimes get the attention they deserve,” Roussel said. “They could be in better position to market themselves as the best players in the league.”

Vancouver forward Tanner Pearson said the shortened season means teams must always keep an eye on the standings.

“It’s going to be different for a points race,” he said. “You always talk about a four-point game when you play a division team. Now it’s more crucial than ever.”

WATCH | NHL world honours Willie O’Ree on MLK Day:

Sixty-three years after Willie O’Ree became the first black player in an NHL game, the league paid tribute to him on Martin Luther King Jr. Day even though many say the league is still struggling with diversity issues. 2:00

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CBC | Sports News

Pandemic practices: How 2 U of T women’s basketball coaches are navigating a season without games

It’s been an on-and-off season for the University of Toronto women’s basketball team.

Players were on the court in September practising mostly in groups of five — with the exception of one full team practice — until Thanksgiving, when lockdown in Ontario forced them off.

“Practices” from home lasted four more weeks until the team was cleared to return to the court for another seven days. That’s when the latest provincial lockdown took effect, forcing the team back off the court.

Now, as coronavirus cases surge across the province, and specifically in Toronto, a return to the hardwood is nowhere in sight.

“It’s been a tough time, obviously not being on the court as much, really trying to make your team essentially become a team — not necessarily on the court. That’s been tough. But there are a lot of things that you can do off the court, [where] I find are there are opportunities to really make themselves better not just as a basketball player, but as a person,” said interim head coach and two-time Olympian Tamara Tatham.

Tatham took over the role July 1 after the retirement of Michele Belanger, who spent 41 seasons guiding the Varsity Blues.

But Tatham has yet to call a timeout or set a starting lineup. She retired as a player in 2017 before becoming an assistant on Belanger’s bench. In September, the 35-year-old brought on Rio Olympic teammate and current national team player Miah-Marie Langlois, 29, to the staff.

One month later, USports announced all winter championships, including women’s basketball, would be called off due to the pandemic. The team has not and will not play a single game.

“We’re just making sure they’re still staying connected somehow. We did a lot during the summer, but we kind of dialed it down since the school year started by because they’re in school 24/7 online,” said Tatham.

Zoom practices

The team is meeting regularly over Zoom, though basketball is often not the main focus. Instead, Tatham and Langlois choose to zero in on social activity.

“It’s really important to not get on the girls or expect a lot from them when they’re going through a bigger problem than being denied just basketball. We still have to worry about them, especially their mental health. So we’re just trying to be very conscious about everyone’s screen time and just try to support the girls as much as we can to get through this,” said Langlois.

There’s been sessions built for the players to just get to know each other. Another meeting had a Christmas theme, and a pair of Zoom workout calls even had ’80s and Halloween dress codes.

Three times a week, the strength and conditioning coach sends out a program and the players lift together over video. Langlois managed to put together a ball-handling session when it was warmer out, too.

“Basketball is a team sport. I think girls like [that part of] sports, the whole connection and bonding. So we want to keep that aspect of basketball in it and try to use the same sessions to allow the girls to connect with each other, even if they can’t physically,” said Langlois.


While practices are fine, everyone is itching to get back on the court. (Submitted by Tamara Tatham)

Tatham and Langlois said it’s still been tough for the players riding the roller-coaster of the non-existent season.

“But it’s also been a bit of a blessing because you’re getting to realize what basketball is and how important it is to you personally,” said Tatham.

The pandemic hasn’t eased the new coaches’ transition to the bench either. There are no game plans to prepare, no rotations to manage, no progression to see over the eight-month season.

Instead, the lack of competition has helped Tatham and Langlois learn the behind-the-scenes of coaching, like recruiting, fundraising and off-court team-building.

Learning curve for coaches

Tatham said the biggest things she learned about coaching was how it can be like a CEO’s role, with the need to marry all the non-basketball stuff with on-court activity.

But that hasn’t stopped the head coach from watching the NBA — specifically Nick Nurse’s Toronto Raptors and Erik Spoelstra’s Miami Heat — to pick up new strategy every single night. 

“The way they manage, not necessarily whether they manage timeouts, it’s more so what they’re doing at the timeout, why they’re taking timeouts. … And just some of the way that they’re running different offences, how is it slowing? What’s your transition look like? What does your defensive transition like?”

Langlois, still more used to being coached as opposed to coaching, relished the opportunity to improve her relationships with players, like knowing when to push and when to hold back.

Seven months out of the Tokyo Olympics, Langlois also has her playing career to worry about. She’s currently rehabbing a sciatic nerve injury with an eye on full recovery for July, though that process is made even harder with gyms shut down.

But the task at hand remains the Varsity Blues. While Zoom practices are fine, everyone is itching to get back on the court.

“We get told a date and then it comes near and then it gets pushed back again. So we are not in the know just like everyone else,” she said.

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CBC | Sports News

Players, coaches, refs kneel for U.S. anthem as NBA restart tips off

Black players were next to white players. Coaches from one team were next to their compatriots from the opposing side. Many locked arms with the man next to them, some shut their eyes tightly, a few — including LeBron James — briefly raising a fist into the air or pointing skyward.

The NBA had a powerful reopening night message.

When it comes to demanding change, the league stands united — and on Thursday, the four teams that played on the first night of the NBA’s restart showed that by not standing.

They were unprecedented images for the league in unprecedented times: The Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans knelt alongside one another during The Star-Spangled Banner, their way of joining the chorus of those demanding racial justice and equality in society.

In the second game Thursday, James’s Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers did the same thing during the anthem preceding their matchup.

“Tonight we witnessed sober, powerfully moving and heartfelt demonstrations by our players of their commitment to the pursuit of justice,” National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts tweeted moments after the anthem preceding the Lakers-Clippers game ended. “Very proud.”


The NBA has a rule that dates back to the early 1980s decreeing that players must stand for the national anthem, and commissioner Adam Silver quickly announced that the policy is being adjusted.

The anthems were pre-recorded: Jon Batiste performed the one before the Pelicans-Jazz game, and the Compton Kidz Club had the task before the Clippers-Lakers game.

“I respect our teams’ unified act of peaceful protest for social justice and under these unique circumstances will not enforce our long-standing rule requiring standing during the playing of our national anthem,” said Silver, who watched from a plexiglass-enclosed suite because he has not been quarantined and therefore cannot be around players and coaches who are living inside the NBA’s so-called bubble at Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

The coaches, first New Orleans’ Alvin Gentry and Utah’s Quin Snyder and then the Lakers’ Frank Vogel and the Clippers’ Doc Rivers, were next to one another, their arms locked together.

WATCH | Raptors focus on social issues, title defence:

The NBA returns to the court after a four-month absence and while the Toronto Raptors aim to defend their championship title, players are also shining a light on social injustice. 1:47

Many game-day statements expected

The scenes, which occurred with the teams lined up along the sideline nearest where “Black Lives Matter” was painted on the court, were the first of what is expected to be many silent game-day statements by players and coaches who will kneel to call attention to many issues — foremost among them police brutality following the deaths of, among others, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in recent months.

Even the game referees took a knee during the pregame scene.

“I think it’s critical that all of us, in a unified way, turn attention to social justice,” Snyder said during a televised in-game interview. “And all the players, all the coaches, are united in that fact and committed to do what we can do to effect long-term change.”

Many players warmed up wearing shirts that said “Black Lives Matter.” Thursday also marked the debut of new jerseys bearing messages that many players chose to have added, such as “Equality” and “Peace.”

The NBA season was suspended when Rudy Gobert — who also scored the first basket of the restarted season — of the Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus and became the first player in the league with such a diagnosis. Gobert also wound up scoring the decisive basket in the Jazz’s 106-104 win over the Pelicans.

Gobert was diagnosed on March 11; two days later, Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, was fatally shot when police officers burst into her Louisville, Ky., apartment using a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation. The warrant was in connection with a suspect who did not live there and no drugs were found.

Then on May 25, Floyd died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into the Black man’s neck for nearly eight minutes. That happened on a street, with the images — and sounds of the man saying he couldn’t breathe, then crying out for his mother — all captured on cellphone video.


Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz was diagnosed with the coronavirus on March 11, the first player in the NBA with such a diagnosis, and the league suspended its season following play that night. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Using platform to promote change

NBA players have used their platforms — both in the bubble and on social media — to demand equality and to demand justice for Taylor. Coaches have also said it is incumbent on them to demand change and educate themselves and others. And the pregame actions by the Jazz and the Pelicans were just the start of what is expected to be a constant during the remainder of this season.

“It’s taken a very long time to get this momentum going,” San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said in a video that aired pregame, a project organized by both the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association. “And it cannot be lost.”

Other teams who will play their first games of the restart on Friday and Saturday are planning similar gestures.

“We want our lives to be valued as much as everybody else,” Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum said in a video that aired before the games, part of a project organized by both the NBA and the players association. “We don’t think that we’re better. We want to be seen as equals.”

Added Chris Paul, the Oklahoma City Thunder guard and president of the NBPA, speaking in the same video: “Things aren’t going to change until we sort of make them change.”

The Pelicans’ Gentry said he appreciated the accidental symmetry that came from the first games of the restarted season, coming only hours after the funeral for U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who died on July 17 at the age of 80.

Lewis spent most of his life championing civil rights and equality and was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington — where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Gentry said he believes this movement, like the one Lewis helped spark six decades ago, will endure.

“If you talk to some of the younger generation, I think this is here to stay. I really do,” Gentry said.

“I have a 20-year-old son and a 22-year-old son, and I know that they feel like this is the most opportune time for us to try to have change in this country.”

In the late game, Anthony Davis scored 34 points, James had the go-ahead basket with 12.8 seconds left and the Lakers moved closer to clinching the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference playoffs by topping the Clippers 103-101. Kawhi Leonard scored 28 points in the losing effort.

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CBC | Sports News

Sidelined: For many Black coaches, the last step up the ladder can seem insurmountable

During his eight years as men’s basketball coach at Red Deer College in Alberta from 2011-19, Clayton Pottinger compiled a record that would be enviable at any level.

His teams had an overall win-loss record of 137-41, with two Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference championships and silver at the 2014 national championships, the same year he was named Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association coach of the year.

Winning wasn’t new to Pottinger. In the early 1990s, he captained the Alberta Golden Bears men’s team that won the school’s first U Sports championship. 

He thought he had ticked all of the boxes needed to move to the next level and earn a head coaching job with a university.

But over all that time, it never happened.

“It got to a point where I just didn’t think it was going to happen. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why that was,” Pottinger said.


(Illustration by Alexis Allison/CBC Sports)

He can’t say for sure it’s because he’s Black, but he doesn’t discount it as a factor, he said.

“I had the master’s degree in coaching. I had the coaching levels I have. I developed the track record of winning and success. And still sometimes I wouldn’t even get an interview,” said the 49-year-old.

Pottinger’s abilities were finally recognized last year when the University of British Columbia Okanagan hired him as head coach of its men’s team, making him one of just a handful of Black head coaches at the Canadian university level.

The lack of diversity in key leadership positions in Canadian university sport is an extension of the wider Canadian and global sports landscape.

A visual audit done by CBC Sports examined hundreds of key positions at all 56 Canadian universities that compete under the U Sports umbrella, including each school’s athletic director and head coaches of football, men’s and women’s basketball, hockey, soccer and track.

WATCH | Road to U Sports wasn’t easy for Clayton Pottinger:

CBC Sports’ Jamie Strashin spoke with UBC Okanagan head coach Clayton Pottinger, and why it seemingly took so long to break into the U Sports coaching ranks. 1:13

Of the nearly 400 positions examined, only about 10 per cent were held by Black, Indigenous or persons of colour (BIPOC). Only one school in U Sports has a non-white athletic director, the top leadership position in athletics at Canadian universities.

According to the 2016 Canadian census, nearly one-quarter of citizens identified as BIPOC.

“There’s always this idea that Canada is better than the U.S. today. And maybe in some regards it is, but that’s kind of setting the bar a little bit low,” Pottinger said.

“I think we still have a lot of work here in Canada. We can’t just simply rest on our laurels and think that we’re better than the nation next to us. There’s still a lot of racism here, there’s still a lot of bias here, and there’s still a lot of work to do.”


Pottinger says it’s important for athletes to have people who look like them in positions of leadership. (Courtesy UBC Okanagan Athletics)

The CBC spoke to a number of Black head coaches across a variety of sports and leagues about their struggles to reach the highest level of their chosen profession.

Novel Thomas has been the head coach of women’s basketball at Brandon University since 2012.

Even while ascending Canada’s basketball and academic ladder, each step had to be carefully navigated, he said.

Thomas had a successful collegiate playing career at Simon Fraser University and also represented Canada internationally on various teams, including the senior national team.

He then went on to play professionally in both North America and Europe, and after a stint working for the Electronic Arts (EA Sports) video game company, landed the job at Brandon University.


(Illustration by Alexis Allison/CBC Sports)

Despite achieving success at nearly every stop, Thomas said he feels he’s always been held to a higher standard behind the bench because of the colour of his skin.

He points to the advice he once gave a Black player he coached.

“You’ve got to be twice as good as someone that isn’t of colour in order to stand out,” Thomas said he told the young player. “My parents told me that exact same thing and I’ve told my kids the exact same thing.”

Thomas says it can be an “exhausting” way to live.

“I hear my mom’s voice saying, ‘You have to be twice as good and work twice as hard.’ And that’s the norm,” Thomas said. “That paranoia that was ingrained in me helped me get to this level. Those messages from my parents have driven me to be great.”

Montreal Alouettes head coach Khari Jones understands the pressure to never trip up or fail.

He was a star quarterback in the CFL and spent more than a decade as an assistant coach before getting the job in Montreal in 2019.


Khari Jones spent 10 years working on CFL coaching staffs before getting his first shot as head coach with the Montreal Alouettes in 2019. (Mark Taylor/The Canadian Press)

Jones said he feels Black coaches are evaluated differently and often face more pressure to win.

For example, he said, when a team fires a Black coach, they rarely, if ever, hire another one.

“I remember going for a job that a Black coach had gotten fired from. I remember thinking, ‘You know what, it’s going to be hard to get this job,’ because in their minds they just went with a Black coach, so we can’t go with another one. That doesn’t happen in the same way with other coaches,” Jones said.

WATCH | Canadian sport organizations say more must be done to address leadership inequality:

Canadian universities and national sports groups say they have to do more to diversify their coaching staff and leadership, after CBC Sports carried out a visual audit and found the vast majority of those positions are held by people who are white. 2:10

Coaches who spoke with CBC Sports said even once they reach the highest level, the issue of race often lingers in the background.

“They can feel that there are people who look at them as being hired because they’re a person of colour or promoted because they’re a person of colour,” said Richard Lapchick, founder and director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) based at the University of Central Florida. The organization was the first to begin compiling racial breakdowns of hiring practices in sports in the U.S.

“The issue of race is ever-present for them, which white staff members don’t even have to think about.”


Paul Jerrard has always tried to let his work behind the bench do all of the talking.

Jerrard, who had a long professional career as a hockey player, including five games in the NHL, remains the only Black man to ever work behind the bench as an NHL coach. He served as an assistant coach with the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars and Calgary Flames. He is now an assistant coach at the University of Nebraska Omaha.

“It’s just that everybody kind of is looking at you in a different light,” Jerrard said of the microaggressions he often encountered, including people sometimes mistaking him for lower-ranked staff. “But I’m just the guy that was part of a coaching staff that’s trying to do well and win. 

“At times, people would make a bigger deal of it than I actually thought it was. People that hired me looked past what colour I was.”

Jerrard recognizes there are fewer opportunities for Black people to coach at hockey’s highest levels, primarily because the pool of former players is limited in a sport played predominantly by white athletes. But he and others say it’s possible for the next generation of Black coaches and leaders to have an easier time achieving their dreams.


Paul Jerrard, top right, is the only Black person to work behind the bench as an NHL coach. He served as an assistant coach with the Calgary Flames, above in 2018, and with Colorado and Dallas before that. (Associated Press)

“It’s great to see more players of colour getting the opportunity [to coach],” Jerrard said of hockey. “I think as we grow the game’s diversity level, [and] you get more people of colour playing the game, I think you’ll get good candidates to fill coaching and managerial positions in the game.”

Concerted effort needed

Thomas says he thinks a more concerted push is needed in order to create a playing field that is truly equal. He says changing current hiring practices and increasing opportunities require more than just talk.

“Unfortunately, we’re at a point where we accept it as being the norm,” he said. “We’re having this conversation now, which is great, and hopefully we can start to provide opportunities for people of colour to pursue sport and coaching and administration positions.”

He points to the efforts to promote and elevate more women into key positions in university sport.

“There are [financial] grants that encourage females to get into coaching and administration in sport. There must be something similar for people of colour. That would be a start,” he said.

“And not to take away from the women’s movement in coaching, but to me, they’re very, very similar. Sparking that interest and showing there is a place for people of colour in coaching.”

Pottinger says developing and actually hiring more Black coaches will have a profound effect on everyone involved in university sport, especially Black athletes.

“I think for a lot of Black athletes in basketball in Canada at university, your coach, your coaching staff are just older white people,” he said. “You’re one of the few minorities, and certainly not with a minority or a person of colour in any sort of leadership position.

“I think you just kind of figure out ways to navigate those situations as a person of colour. Much like we do every day out on the streets.”

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Rich white coaches want football in a pandemic, but unpaid Black players are most at risk

The governing bodies running college and university sports in Canada decided back in June to cancel fall sports for this school year, and the move made sense.

Without a vaccine for COVID-19, and with schools hesitant to even host in-person classes this September, it’s tough to justify varsity sports. Asking students to share living spaces, weight rooms and water bottles during a pandemic is daring them to spread the deadly virus.

Last week the Ivy League — which includes Harvard, Princeton and Yale — became the latest U.S.-based circuit to shut down fall sports, a decision that looks more logical as the case count climbs. By Monday afternoon the U.S. had registered more than 3.3 million cases and 135,000 deaths. It doesn’t take a Princeton grad to figure out that the virus doesn’t care about a football schedule.

But the Power-5 conferences and the brand-name programs that compose them are proceeding as if the pandemic will subside in time for kickoff. The Big Ten and Pac 12 have eliminated competitions against non-conference opponents, but the Southeastern and Atlantic Coast Conferences haven’t announced plans to adjust fall sports programming.

That scenario makes its own kind of sense, given the billions of dollars at stake and the racial disparities at play each college football season. The players are technically amateurs, but college football head coaches all get paid. A lot. Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers made $ 9.3 million US last season. That salary, like much of major college football’s appeal, depends heavily on Black talent. According to the NCAA’s diversity database, Black people composed 49 per cent of Division 1 football rosters last season, but just 14 per cent of head coaches.

So if you’re confused about why a mainly white group of coaches and administrators would encourage a largely Black group of athletes to resume practice even as COVID-19 cases surge in states like Florida and South Carolina, remember that rich decision-makers assume little of the risk. Money motivates the push to salvage college football season this fall, but race underpins all of it.

When the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association announced its fall sports shutdown in June, president Nathan McFadden made the priorities plain.

“This is a difficult, but necessary decision to protect the health and well-being of all our student-athletes,” he said in a news release. 

Contrast McFadden’s reaction with Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy’s response when asked in April about playing this autumn.

“They’re 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22 years old, and they are healthy and they have the ability to fight the virus off,” Gundy told Sports Illustrated. “We sequester them and we continue, because we need to run some money through the state of Oklahoma.”


Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy dismissed concerns about his players contracting COVID-19 if a fall football season were to happen, saying it was important to “run some money through the state of Oklahoma.” (Associated Press)

Gundy, who made $ 5.13 million last season, is one of a long list of people whose income likely depends on playing college football on a schedule resembling normal. The players don’t receive cash, but everyone from the TV networks to stadium concessions workers has a financial stake in proceeding.

But Gundy made that statement before the COVID-19 cases piled up at major college football programs. Last month, 23 Clemson players tested positive, as did 37 members of North Carolina’s athletic department last week. In late June, more than 30 Louisiana State players were quarantined after a COVID-19 outbreak.

Gundy also gave that interview before the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. The 46-year-old died gasping for breath as Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd’s death was a seismic societal event, setting off protests worldwide and prompting industries from pro sports to the news media to examine how racism shapes the way they do business.

The aftershocks even rattled big-time college football.

In mid-June Gundy was photographed wearing a t-shirt bearing the logo One America News, the far-right broadcast network best-known for pro-Donald Trump programming, and for promoting baseless conspiracy theories — like one claiming the novel coronavirus was created in a laboratory — as truth.

Pre-George Floyd, Gundy might have gone unchallenged for promoting a network a news expert might charitably describe as dabbling in Trumpist propaganda. But post-George Floyd, with even Washington’s NFL team posting on social media in support of Black Lives Matter, the OAN t-shirt couldn’t elude scrutiny, and Gundy couldn’t dodge consequences.

“I will not stand for this,” tweeted star running back and Sherwood Park, Alta. native Chuba Hubbard. “This is completely insensitive to everything going on in society. I will not be doing anything with Oklahoma State until things CHANGE.”

That tweet prompted a series of social media posts by former Oklahoma State players alleging Gundy habitually made racist comments, and a videotaped pledge by Gundy to do better by his Black players, even as a school investigation cleared him of racist behaviour.


Hubbard challenged his coach in public because, at this point in history, he sensed he could prevail. His stats — he led NCAA’s Division 1 with 2,094 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns in 2019 — marked him as Oklahoma State’s top player, and the one best equipped to win a public power struggle with Gundy. And a groundswell of activism among Black NCAA athletes this spring lent him momentum.

 At Florida State, players threatened to boycott after head coach Mike Norvell falsely claimed to have talked one-on-one with all his team’s players about the racial reckoning that followed Floyd’s death. Football players at the University of Texas pledged to stop helping with recruiting unless the school stopped playing “Eyes of Texas,” a 19th century song with racist lyrics, at UT sports events. And at Clemson, current and former football players joined a movement to remove the name of slave owner John C. Calhoun from the university’s honours college.

We haven’t seen a boycott over COVID-19, but we couldn’t blame players for looking to opt out given the pandemic’s disproportionate effect on communities of colour. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African-Americans are hospitalized with COVID-19 at four times the rate of white people.

If football programs offered no-strings-attached COVID-19 testing and health care for students from a high-risk group, we could feel better about summoning Black student-athletes back to campus. But Gundy laid out the game plan back in April. It’s about money — Black athletes from working-class backgrounds generate cash to subsidize non-revenue sports, to invest in building a bigger football program, and to fund seven-figure head coach salaries.

It’s callous enough in neutral times to expect the unpaid labour of Black athletes to power the entire college sports economy. But during a pandemic, it’s cruel to expect them to risk their lives.

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NHL commissioner speaks at Board of Governors meeting following allegations against coaches

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is expected to address a potential new code-of-conduct policy for the league tonight, with CBCSports.ca carrying live stream coverage at 8:30 p.m. ET.

Bettman is at the NHL Board of Governors meeting in Pebble Beach, Calif., where he’ll speak publicly for the first time since various allegations surfaced against coaches. 

Bill Peters resigned as Calgary’s head coach after being accused of using a racial slur a decade ago by former player Akim Aliu. Peters was also accused of physical abuse by another former player.

Soon after Peters resigned, the Chicago Blackhawks put assistant coach Marc Crawford on leave while the team investigates allegations of physical abuse made against him by two other former players.

WATCH: Akim Aliu sees big changes coming to NHL

Former NHL forward Akim Aliu issues brief statement after holding a meeting with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly. 0:35
 

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Flyers’ Vigneault tops this year’s class of ‘new’ coaches with NHL teams

When you get a new job, most bosses will give you a bit of time to get your feet wet. Sure, they may duck into your office to make sure everything is on the right track (“Did they finally get your phone extension hooked up?”), but for the most part there is a grace period. 

The same goes for NHL coaches. 

Seven teams entered this season with new coaches behind the bench, and until now, they have been relatively free from critique because you have to give them their own grace period. 

Now that we’ve passed the quarter-mark of the season, it’s time to duck into their offices to see how these guys are doing. 

Alain Vigneault (Philadelphia)

Last year at this point: 27 points

This year: 37 points

Point differential: +10

The City of Brotherly Love is the fifth stop for Vigneault and so far so good. The most notable change comes with how he gives out ice time; last year, both Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier averaged more than 20 minutes per game and were expected to carry the load offensively, which they did. 

Vigneault hasn’t put all his eggs into that basket. Travis Konecny has been given more than two minutes more per game and now leads the team in scoring with 27 points (he had 49 all of last season). Oskar Lindblom has also done well with more ice time, as he is almost half way to his point total from last season. 

Dave Tippett (Edmonton)


Six-foot-seven goaltender Mikko Koskinen has made things easier for Dave Tippett in his first year as Edmonton Oilers head coach. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

Last year at this point: 32 points

This year: 37 points

Point differential: +5

When Tippett was hired to fix the mess that is the Edmonton Oilers, he said, “Everybody talks about [captain Connor] McDavid and [fellow forward Leon] Draisaitl. There are more pieces here [than them]. There are good players to build on.”

Well, McDavid and Draisaitl have done their part, and when you throw James Neal into the mix, the trio have accounted for 57 per cent of the Oilers goals this season. 

But the real difference comes on special teams. 

Their ninth-ranked power play last year is now tops in the league at 32.5 per cent, while their penalty kill — an ugly 30th in the league last season — is currently second best overall.  

Joel Quenneville (Florida)

Last year at this point: 27 points

This year: 31 points

Point differential: +4

Five points may not seem like a lot, but the Panthers are a much-improved team. Then again, when you spend a boatload of money to get a three-time Stanley Cup champion coach, you expect some immediate results.

This one is so much more than X’s and O’s; Quenneville is the very definition of a players coach. Vincent Trocheck said earlier this month that it feels “different” this year because the team is playing with confidence. 

Sometimes a coach’s toughest job is changing the culture of a room. Quenneville is already ahead of schedule with that task.

WATCH | When NHL players ate pizza and smoked:

Players in the NHL are bigger, stronger, and faster than ever, but that wasn’t always the case. Rob Pizzo asked some former players about some unhealthy habits of the past that they witnessed. 2:05

D.J. Smith (Ottawa)

Last year at this point: 27 points

This year: 23 points

Point differential: -4

Going into this season, no team or coach had lower expectations than the Ottawa Senators. Their job was simple — lose hockey games to get a shot at the No. 1 overall pick. It would seem first-time head coach Smith didn’t get the memo. 

Any other team would have looked at a November schedule that consisted of 16 games in 29 days and 11 of them on the road as a good time to mail it in. 

The Sens won eight of their first 13 games. Ottawa fans don’t know whether to cheer for them to stop winning or enjoy the ride.

Todd McLellan (L.A. Kings)

Last year at this point: 21 points

This year: 24 points

Point differential: +3​​

McClellan knew the rebuild would probably be painful and it has been. Unlike Smith, the Kings are doing exactly what people expected they would do — lose. 

While McLellan has been juggling some young players around, we can’t evaluate his job for a couple years. 

Dallas Eakins (Anaheim)

Last year at this point: 31 points

This year: 28 points

Point differential: -3

Do the Ducks look different under Eakins than they did under Randy Carlyle? Yes. 

Has it resulted in more points? Nope. 

This team needed to score more goals and Eakins has preached a possession game, which (let me put my analytics hat on here for a second) has resulted in the team sitting sixth in “high-danger chances”. However, (removes analytics hat and puts on old-school stats hat), the team sits 20th in the league in goals per game. 

If this team can start capitalizing on those chances, Eakins will start getting more pats on the back. 

Ralph Krueger (Buffalo)

Last year at this point: 37 points

This year: 31 points

Point differential: -6

Perhaps no coach in the league took a weirder path to get a job than Krueger. 

He had been serving as the chairman of the Southampton Football Club in the English Premier League, but came back to the NHL to coach the Sabres. 

Buffalo shot out of the gate (9-2-1 in October), but have since crashed back to earth. Krueger has already had to give some tough love to guys like Rasmus Dahlin (he benched him for an entire third period against the Senators), and now has lost him for a while with a concussion.

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Sex offences against minors: Investigation reveals more than 200 Canadian coaches convicted in last 20 years

This story is the first of a three-part series by CBC News and Sports on abuse in amateur sport in Canada.

At least 222 coaches who were involved in amateur sports in Canada have been convicted of sexual offences in the past 20 years involving more than 600 victims under the age of 18, a joint investigation by CBC News and Sports reveals.

And the cases of another 34 accused coaches are currently before the courts.

In Ontario, for example, karate coach Satnam Rayat was charged in 2016 with sexual assault, sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching against a nine-year-old student. His trial is set for this summer.

In B.C., basketball coach Codie Hindle is accused of sexual touching against three young players. He is expected in court for a pretrial hearing in April.  

The analysis by CBC shows the charged and convicted coaches were involved in 36 different sports.

"It's pretty gut-wrenching to see the findings," said Lorraine Lafrenière, head of the Coaching Association of Canada. "There is a misguided sense of security when you drop your child off at the clubhouse."

The investigation involved searching through thousands of court records, media articles and visiting courthouses across Canada. What's emerged, for the first time, is a detailed database of sexual offences committed by amateur athletic coaches in this country.

The charges include offences such as sexual assault, sexual exploitation, child luring and making or possessing child pornography. Most but not all of the victims were athletes training with the coach.

In all cases, the accused was charged between 1998 and 2018, but the offences may have predated that.

"These are just the tip of the iceberg for me," said Olympic rower and University of Winnipeg sociology professor Sandra Kirby, who has been studying issues around sexual abuse in sports for years.

Kirby says sexual abuse is a very under-reported crime and she estimates there could be thousands of other cases where no one has come forward.

She says sport organizations across Canada can't ignore these findings, and there needs to be "massive reform across the sport system" to ensure every child who participates in sports has a safe experience.

"There are people who, even with all of the information out in the press now, simply don't get it," she said. "They don't get the magnitude of the problem."

Sandra Kirby, an Olympic rower and University of Winnipeg sociology professor, says CBC's findings could be just the 'tip of the iceberg.' (CBC )

Stories of coaches and other sports staff abusing their athletes have been front and centre in recent years.

In the U.S., Dr. Larry Nassar's abuse of young athletes entrusted to his care rocked the gymnastics world to its core.

Nassar was the team doctor for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, where more than 150 women and girls said he sexually abused them over a period of two decades. He was ultimately sentenced to 60 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges, and was sentenced to another 40 to 175 years for first-degree sexual misconduct.

Here in Canada, high-profile Olympic coaches have either stood trial or been convicted of sexually abusing their pupils, including national ski coach Bertrand Charest, convicted of 37 sex-related charges, and national gymnastics coach David Brubaker, currently on trial for sexual assault. Justice Deborah Austin is expected to deliver the Brubaker verdict on Wednesday.

Twenty years ago, the case of notorious junior hockey coach Graham James made national headlines and was thought to be a major wake-up call for the amateur sports world in Canada.

Graham James holds his award in 1989 after being named The Hockey News man of the year. The notorious former junior hockey coach has been convicted of abusing six of his young players. (Bill Becker/Canadian Press)

In four separate trials between 1997 and 2015, James, a minor hockey coach in Western Canada, was convicted of abusing six of his players hundreds of times, including future NHLer Theo Fleury.

The case prompted calls for organizations to implement safe sport policies, including making it easier for athletes to report abuse.

But all these years later, little has actually changed and organizations are still struggling to implement effective rules to protect young athletes, experts say.

Lorraine Lafrenière, head of the Coaching Association of Canada, calls CBC's findings 'gut-wrenching.' (CBC)

Lafrenière says CBC's findings could help create more effective screening and tracking policies for coaches.

"We're at a stage now where we need to come back and say, as a system, we need to set the right safety standards in the field house, in extended travel, in social environments, in social media to make change."

'No sport is immune'

And, as the data makes clear, that reform needs to occur nationwide, across all sports and all levels of competition, Kirby says.

"No sport is immune to this," she said.

Though some sports have no former coaches in CBC's database, that doesn't necessarily mean their young athletes have been spared abuse, she said. It could simply reflect that some victims haven't come forward, or cases that were reported didn't result in charges.

Hockey, which has the second highest number of participants in the country, had the highest number of charges against coaches (86). Of those, 59 were convicted and eight are still facing trials.

Soccer, which has the highest number of participants, had the second highest number of people charged at 40. Of those, 27 were convicted and two coaches are currently awaiting trial.

  • If you would like to access victim support services, click here for a directory of resources in your area​

Many smaller sports saw charges against coaches as well, including five convicted in equestrian.

Helmut Krohn is one of those equestrian coaches. He was charged twice for sexual crimes against young female students. In 2016, he pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation and was sentenced to 45 days in jail. In December 2018, he was found guilty of two counts of sexual exploitation of another victim and was sentenced to two years in prison and three years of probation.

The investigation provides, for the first time, a comprehensive look at the problem of predatory coaches in Canadian amateur sports. (CBC)

Lafrenière says sports should be careful not to misread the numbers. "There's a danger in saying, 'Oh no, that's over there in hockey,' or 'No, that's over there in gymnastics or alpine.' It's about the system," she said.

"Predators are smart people who look for points of access. So if they walk into a clubhouse and they see that young people are left unattended … that's where they're going to go."

In the first 10 years covered by CBC's analysis, from 1998 to 2008, there were 116 charges and 87 convictions. In the following decade those numbers increased to 239 coaches charged and 148 convicted.

For years, experts say, sports organizations at all levels have created anti-abuse policies without actually knowing the full scope of the problem.

Kirby says this data gives sports an opportunity to be transparent with parents.  

CBC contacted 35 national sports organizations and 133 provincial sports organizations and asked if they had a public list of coaches and volunteers who have been banned, and/or charged or convicted of a crime. Of the 86 replies, only seven of the associations — Skate Canada, Athletics Canada, Equestrian Canada, Gymnastics Ontario, BC Soccer, BC Softball and Judo Quebec — said they publish some form of this information on their websites. Gymnastics Ontario was the only one to provide the full reason for a suspension.

Hockey Canada was among the national organizations that didn't respond.

Kirby stresses that transparency must go beyond sharing information about criminal convictions. Sports organizations need to make all information on coaches who have been reprimanded or suspended public, because without it, parents may never know that their child is being coached by someone who could be dangerous.

She says full transparency and consistent rules available to all sports organizations — big or small —  focused on prevention will hopefully lead to a reduction in the number of coaches charged criminally in the next 20 years.

— With data files from William Wolfe-Wylie

Editor's Note: CBC Sports acknowledges that it has ongoing contractual agreements to produce, broadcast and stream various events with several national sport organizations.

​For readers under the age of 18, if you have questions or have ever felt uncomfortable, talk to a parent, guardian or adult you trust. If you don't have someone you can talk to, call KIDS HELP PHONE at 1-800-668-6868 or live chat them at KidsHelpPhone.ca.

If you have information to share on this story, please contact Lori Ward at lori.ward@cbc.ca or Jamie Strashin at jamie.strashin@cbc.ca. You can also send anonymous tips through CBC Secure Drop.  

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Ontario hockey coaches ordered to talk to players about gender diversity

In minor hockey dressing rooms across Ontario this fall, coaches will be delivering a different kind of message.

It won't be focused on power-play strategy or skating fundamentals. Instead, every coach in the province has been mandated to carry out a pre-season chat with players about gender diversity, respect and inclusion.

"We want to make the game inclusive and understand that our coaches' responsibility is not to judge individuals on the face of things, but to create an environment where everyone feels respected and comfortable in a hockey arena," said Phil McKee, executive director of the Ontario Hockey Federation, which oversees hundreds of clubs across the province.

Coaches across Canada receive some training around gender and inclusion as part of a mandatory Respect in Sport course that all coaches must take before stepping behind a bench. But Ontario is the first province to mandate a pre-season chat of this kind.

It's not a move the OHF made entirely voluntarily. Rather, it was part of the settlement of a case brought before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario back in 2013. A complaint was brought by Jesse Thompson of Oshawa, Ont., a transgender teen who told the tribunal he was outed when he was asked to use a dressing room that aligned with his gender at birth (female), and not his identified gender (male). The tribunal heard that Thompson wasn't allowed in the boys' room and, at the same time, some parents of female players objected to him using the girls' room.

McKee said the mandatory conversations will be held among teams of all ages, across all levels of competition. As part of the settlement, the OHF will also conduct random audits until at least 80 per cent of organizations under its umbrella have instituted the mandated chats.

McKee said the OHF is providing organizations with detailed checklists to help them navigate what some see as difficult subject matter. He said Hockey Canada reached out to Egale Canada, an LGBT advocacy group, to help guide coaches on matters such as "introductory pronoun check-ins."

"Pre-season chats are a great opportunity for everyone on your team, including coaches, assistant coaches and volunteers, to share the name and gender pronoun by which they wish to be called," Egale said in the package it provides to the OHF to distribute to coaches. "Explain that it is important to ask for and share gender pronouns, just like names, because it is not something you can always tell just by looking at someone. Tell players that it is OK to make mistakes but that it is important to show that they are trying to remember by simply apologizing and correcting themselves if they do slip up."

Coaches are also reminded to discuss a player's rights when it comes to gender identity. "Explain that it is everyone's right to define and express their gender without fear of being discriminated against or harassed," Egale advises. "State that this means that everyone has the right to be referred to by the name and gender pronoun they request and the right to use the washroom or dressing room (or any other gender-specific space) where they feel most comfortable."

Egale has also provided coaches with a detailed glossary, including terms associated with assigned sex (like intersex) and terms associated with gender (like polygender and cisgender).

Mixed reaction

McKee said the initial response from coaches has been mixed.

"Depends on who you talk to. Some people feel like it's just checking a box but other people definitely learned a lot."

David Noon coaches a team of eight-year-olds in Toronto. He agrees with what the OHF is trying to do.

"You have to be respectful to everybody and I think it's important to understand that," Noon said. "You have to make everyone around you feel comfortable and I think that comes from knowledge and understanding people."

However, he doesn't think it's a message coaches should have to deliver. Instead, it should be an opportunity for parents to coach the coach.

"I think to put the onus on the coach is irresponsible. It's not the coach's responsibility. It's the parent's responsibility," Noon said.

"If you are a parent and you want to make your son or daughter comfortable in a situation on a team, it's your responsibility to educate the coach or manager of the the team to create a comfortable environment for your child."

Beyond comfort zones

McKee understands that some coaches and parents may feel uncomfortable with the subject matter, but he said there is little choice.

"We are not asking coaches to deliver sex education here," he said. "We are asking coaches to build an environment of inclusiveness and respect and provide information, an aspect of understanding.

"It's not your job to inform other players and parents that somebody is transgender. It's to provide confidentiality and accommodation."

McKee acknowledges this isn't a widespread issue in hockey or a topic traditionally associated with the game. He said the OHF is currently working with about 60 cases where it is ensuring local clubs are properly accommodating players.

"Is it an overwhelming percentage of our population? No. It is about making people who may feel different feel comfortable, that they can enjoy and live their lives while playing the game of hockey and have fun. And part of that is making people move beyond their comfort zones and hopefully this will help."

He said before this ruling, it wasn't an issue he gave a lot of thought to.

"It gave me a real understanding that everyone is different in their own way," McKee said. "You may dress as a boy, you may dress as a girl. You may dress in a feminine way, you may dress in a masculine way, and that may have nothing to do with who you feel you are as an individual inside or who you are attracted to on the outside."

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