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Volleyball camps providing opportunities for Indigenous athletes

Waterloo Warriors women’s volleyball assistant coach Amy Wilson-Hands, who is from Rainy River First Nations, led a week-long camp in Mishkeegogamang First Nation earlier this month.
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Waterloo Warriors women's volleyball assistant coach Amy Wilson-Hands, who is from Rainy River First Nations, helped run a youth and coaching development camp in Mishkeegogamang First Nation from Feb. 5-9.

MISHKEEGOGAMANG FIRST NATION – For Amy Wilson-Hands, the chance to hold volleyball camps in Indigenous communities is something she finds extremely important.

Wilson-Hands, who is from Rainy River First Nations and is an assistant coach for the University of Waterloo Warriors women’s program, was in Mishkeegogamang First Nation from Feb. 5-9 to help run a youth and coaching development camp.

“It’s important because not all Indigenous athletes are seen, meaning that they don’t come off of their community,” Wilson-Hands said. “It’s kind of neat to be able to go in and see what’s in the different regions.

“It’s also important as I help to connect the communities with the Ontario Volleyball Association. We’ve been talking about giving an opportunity to an Indigenous athlete to attend our high performance centre and possibly be a part of Team Ontario in the future.

“That is just huge as now we have that opportunity for athletes who are not seen on a regular basis by coaches that could now have the potential to go and compete with top athletes from around the province. With camps like this and programs like this . . . it just creates an equal opportunity for Indigenous youth.”

The opportunity for Wilson-Hands to give back with volleyball camps started in June 2022.

A lady in Moose Factory got in touch with Wilson-Hands via social media to see if she would be interested in holding a volleyball camp in the community.

“While I was there, I asked her how she found out about me and she said that she had searched online for Indigenous volleyball coaches and my name had popped up,” Wilson-Hands said.

“After that camp, another community reached out to her and asked ‘Hey, how did you get Amy and can we have her contact information? Things kind of exploded after that.”

The camp in Mishkeegogamang was put together through a JumpStart grant that was received by the Mikinakoos Children’s Fund and the support of Missabay Community School.

It was divided into two parts, featuring sessions for students in Grades 5-8 that focused on enhancing their volleyball skills, game strategies and leadership capabilities, in addition to coaching development sessions for young teens and adults.

“From the sounds of things when chatting with people there, it sounds like the game is starting to grow and they are looking for feedback in regards to starting up adult and youth pickup leagues,” Wilson-Hands said.

“The feedback was great and they’ve already asked if I’d be willing to come back up and run another camp, now that we all kind of know what the needs are for everybody.”

Wilson-Hands, who will be coaching the Team Ontario Black squad at the Canada Cup in Calgary this summer, will be holding camps in Kingfisher Lake First Nation and North Caribou First Nation over the coming months.