Written by: Matt Johnson for Sask Sport
Confidently, Abigail Pritchard strode into Hub City Boxing in Saskatoon with a proposal for owner Lynn Seguin.
“She literally walked through the door and said ‘I’m looking for a job in coaching’,” said Seguin, who happened to be looking for a female coach for the facility. “I was like ‘Wow. Okay. Well, what can you do?’ I was super impressed she would walk through the door of a club and say I want a coaching job. That was pretty cool.”
After listing off her boxing resume, Pritchard was hired.
The story may make her entrance into the coaching world seem straightforward and simple, but the route to that point has been full of twists and turns.
Originally from Yorkton, Sask., Pritchard has spent the last 19 years in Saskatoon. Her start in boxing came with help from well-known Indigenous basketball athlete Michael Linklater. Regarded as one of the best FIBA 3×3 basketball players and a champion with both the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s basketball team and Saskatchewan Rattlers, Linklater played a big part in Pritchard’s life.
“It’s so empowering and inspiring to have a leader like that. Someone to look up to who is also Indigenous, because I think that we need more Indigenous people in every field. So for me to be an Indigenous leader to my community and my athletes, it’s a great opportunity.“Abigail Pritchard on Indigenous leaders in sport
The mentorship started in the summer of 2011 when Pritchard was 15-years-old. Linklater paid for her first set of equipment and footwear to help kickstart her future in boxing.
“It’s so empowering and inspiring to have a leader like that,” said Pritchard. “Someone to look up to who is also Indigenous, because I think that we need more Indigenous people in every field. So for me to be an Indigenous leader to my community and my athletes, it’s a great opportunity.
“I’m so blessed to be able to do it because I want to be a light to shine on these young kids and show them that they can be something too and that it doesn’t matter where you come from or where you start, but where it’s you finish and anything is possible.”
Shortly after, Pritchard teamed up with coach Vernon Linklater, Michael’s uncle and a 1990 Commonwealth Games boxing bronze medalist. Before long, she was training six-times a week and began competing a year later.
While Pritchard gradually shifted away from competing, she didn’t stop sparring or training, eventually leading her to coaching. She would frequently stay around the club after her workouts to help coach, despite there not being any job opportunities at the time.
“I was like ‘Hey, I’m good at this. I really want to do this.’ So before I ever was a coach, I pictured myself as one and I always said ‘One day I could become a coach.’ It was a dream that I had,” said Pritchard.
However, that vision was put on hold when Pritchard stepped away from boxing for four years to start a family and pursue education. Soon Pritchard longed to put on her gloves again.
“I didn’t feel like I was living my purpose,” said Pritchard.
So Pritchard found the confidence to talk to Seguin and now it’s a love she shares with her four-year-old daughter, who sometimes hangs around Hub City while her mother is coaching in the ring.
“As a mother, having a job that I love where my daughter is always welcomed is a dream job,” said Pritchard. “It’s a secure feeling because I’m able to do what I need to do, and at the same time I’m a mother. It shows a good example to my child of what I do for work.”
“She’s four-years-old but she’s very proud of me.. We have busy schedules but if my daughter isn’t with me, she’s with her father. We are very happy that our daughter loves the boxing club.”
Seguin takes pride in knowing she has established a safe space for Abigail’s daughter to come and hang out while she is at work.
“She likes to draw rainbows,” said Seguin, of Pritchard’s daughter.” “So we have felt markers because she likes them better than the pencil.
“Times are changing and we have to adapt. Sometimes she can’t get the daycare that she needs for six o’clock. It’s okay that her daughter is in the gym and it’s okay that she’s a working mom.”
Seguin believes having a female coaching voice is “extremely important” and she has seen the positive impacts of Pritchard first-hand, which she is especially thankful for.
“I definitely see more young ladies that are training now and for me to be able to coach them, I can tell that they’re comfortable,” said Pritchard. “They like to see that ‘Hey, there’s a woman coach and she’s really good. I could be like that.’ I love to see that.”
Since stepping back into coaching, Pritchard has been completing National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) modules through the Saskatchewan Coaching Academy offered by the Coaches Association of Saskatchewan. Module topics range from managing sport programs to prevention and rehabilitation of injuries, practice planning and more. The fees for the modules and Academy are covered for Pritchard by the Indigenous Coaches and Officials Program.
“She’s gained some knowledge that she’s pretty stoked about,” said Seguin. “Being able to implement the learning that she’s received into the club is something that is extremely motivating for her. I am more than willing to give her that opportunity to implement that new knowledge.”
All signs point to Pritchard just getting started within the world of boxing. And while the newly-minted coach is currently more focused on that side of the sport at the moment, that doesn’t mean she’s done with competing either. She hopes to get back in the ring when restrictions permit to start adding a few more fights to her name.
As for coaching, Pritchard has lofty goals. She aspires to one day being in the corner for a fighter at an Olympic Games, training champions and using coaching as an outlet to travel the world.
Wherever Pritchard’s path leads her, it’s clear she’s got a forever fan in Seguin.
“I’m so proud of her.”