Written by: Matt Johnson for Sask Sport
Lonnie Mercredi is no stranger to amateur athletics in Saskatchewan.
Growing up in La Ronge, Mercredi played all sorts of sports. It’s a tradition he’s continued into his teaching and coaching career. Mercredi is a physical education teacher at Eagleview Comprehensive High School in Onion Lake.
La Ronge is a hockey crazy town and Mercredi is no stranger to the ice. But after suffering injuries at a young age, he turned to basketball and track and field.
Mercredi represented Saskatchewan at the 1993 and 1995 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG), where he was a member of the province’s basketball teams – a program that he now leads as the head coach of the under-19 squad.
Lonnie Mercredi on why he volunteers
I’ve always wanted to be involved. It’s boring if you are not.
While basketball and track and field have been his main focuses in his coaching career, Mercredi prides himself on his ability to coach across a multitude of sports including golf, which he was a sport leader for as a member of the Saskatchewan Mission Staff at the 2019 Western Canada Summer Games.
“It’s just a natural progression being in sport,” said Mercredi. “I had such a love for being in such a variety of sports, I still want to have a piece of it. Coaching and being still involved with the sport world still helps me have a piece of that, but also give back.”
It was at Churchill Community High School in La Ronge where he developed his love for coaching. As a high school athlete, Mercredi would spend time working with younger students on developing their skills, foreshadowing a future as a teacher.
“I always wanted to be involved,” he remembers. “It’s boring if you’re not.”
It’s through his passion for sports that he attempts to bring younger Indigenous people into sport, noting the potential for sport to serve as a terrific outlet for the Indigenous community.
“It gets kids involved and gives them purpose,” said Mercredi.
That desire is not lost on Lazarus Masson, the principal at Eagleview, who describes Mercredi as “a very wonderful person to have at the school,” and notes his ability to weave in Indigenous content to the physical education curriculum at Eagleview.
Mercredi credits National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) modules through the Saskatchewan Coaching Academy offered by the Coaches Association of Saskatchewan as a contributing factor for his understanding of development and construction of a program. Mercredi’s costs for the NCCP programs and Coaching Academy are covered as part of the Indigenous Coaches and Officials Program.
“He has an ability to see things and actually capture different ideas and try to instil that within his students,” said Masson. “If it’s drawing something for kids to make a connection with, he has the ability to do that. But he also has the ability where he can just snap a finger and instil a visual image for students to see what he’s talking about. He takes his time helping and getting kids to understand.”
Mercredi, who began taking NCCP modules in the early 2000’s, notes that as the modules have transferred online, he has been able to take part in more professional development opportunities, citing constraints like travel time and family commitments previously acting as a barrier to participating.
As he develops as a coach through opportunities like NCCP modules, Mercredi hopes that coaching openings will present themselves. He aspires to coach a provincial team for a national competition such as a Canada Games, as well as coach at the collegiate level.
While he is cognizant of advancing his own coaching career, Mercredi makes note of also mentoring those around him, something he is grateful for during his early adolescence in La Ronge.
“Since I was involved and people before me gave me time to help me learn stuff. I just want to do the same,” said Mercredi. “To get the younger generation going and get them involved in wanting to pass on their knowledge would be the next step for me.”