TORONTO,ON–This past weekend, Toronto played host to the first ever Canadian Basketball Congress. A three-day event that provided a forum for various stakeholders in Canadian basketball to come together and discuss ideas about player and program development. Guests from all over Canada were in attendance to hear numerous speakers touch upon subjects such as building a strong basketball culture, shifting current paradigms, recruitment, and inclusion.
NPH had the opportunity to take part in Saturday’s session regarding “Recruiting Women and Visible Minorities”, and “New Canadians”. The purpose was to send a message that we should constantly be striving to promote inclusion in Canadian sports. Despite a person’s gender, race, or ethnicity, efforts should constantly be made to break down these barriers, and to ensure that equality and inclusion are cornerstones in our values. Otherwise, we run the risk of having elite talent lost due to lack of opportunities for them to flourish.
“Role modelling” and “intentionalizing” were two interesting ideas put forth by Beth Ali, the Athletic Director for the University of Toronto. She spoke of the necessity of having visible minorities in coaching positions where they can be seen and thus lead by example, and how intentionally setting goals to recruit such minorities should be a priority. This sentiment was also echoed by Kathy Brook from the Coaching Association of Canada, who also spoke about the challenges facing women in the coaching world. The president of the Canadian Association of Basketball Officials, Jim Walsh, also spoke of the importance of having role models in recruiting and training referees. He also emphasized the constant need for open communication in the sporting community to foster feedback and ideas, while also promoting the value of respect in creating a positive sports environment. The President of Wheel Chair Basketball Canada, Steve Bach, gave an interesting perspective about promoting sports as a “unified” body, where able-bodied and disabled participants are not considered to be separate entities, but rather, all pieces of one greater puzzle.
Jim Walsh, President, CABO Beth Ali, Athletic Director, U of T
Inclusion and respect were common themes for the discussion of recruiting and integrating new Canadians into our nation’s programs. Selina Aivaliotis from Canadian Citizenship and Immigration spoke about the changing face of Canada, and illustrated how vast the talent pool is for newcomers to Canada. Clement Chu, president of the Canadian Chinese Youth Athletic Association; Dan McKenzie, General Manager of NBA Canada; and Steve Konchalski, head coach of St. Francis Xavier University, also drove this concept home, using their vast experiences in athletics as reference points.
It was apparent that the commonality of each speaker’s message was the need to embrace diversity, and to actively work to maximize its benefits, while also fighting to eliminate any barriers that stand in its way. Through actively working to recruit, develop and promote those people in sports that have not been given a fair chance at advancement, or those who have been forgotten, due to their visible minority standing, Canadian basketball can benefit. Not only will it tap into a wider network of resources and talent, but it will also ensure that fairness and equality are cornerstones in Canadian basketball’s development. After all, that is what being Canadian is all about.
To see that efforts are being made for unison and collaboration among Canada’s basketball minds is very encouraging. Canada has taken the first big step of turning itself from a novice on the world basketball scene to producing numerous top-level talents and development programs. The next challenge lies in quality assurance of these programs, and to make sure that we not only maximize our current assets, but to ensure that we continually strive to improve our basketball culture, and sports culture in general.