The morning started with more than a cup of coffee as a crowd of individuals attended the Inclusion in Sport Breakfast, February 2 at the Queensbury Convention Centre to hear panelists Mike Tanton, Kyrell Sopotyk and Amy Prokopchuk discuss the value of authenticity, diversity and inclusion in sport.
Mike Tanton is a long-serving volunteer for the North American Indigenous Games, first attending in 2002 as a basketball coach and more recently as Chef de Mission. Dual-sport athlete in wheelchair racing and wheelchair basketball Kyrell Sopotyk and University of Saskatchewan assistant soccer coach Amy Prokop joined Tanton on the stage to share their experiences with inclusion in sport.
Here are quotes from each of the panelists on why they believe inclusion plays an important role in keeping the sport community a welcoming and safe community and how it may be achieved.
Kyrell Sopotyk, Dual-sport athlete
“In Para-sport, its important for new coaches, officials, volunteers or spectators to understand, yes we are individuals living with a disability, but at the end of the day we are still athletes. I think we should be viewed as athletes, same as able body. We still have the same goals and drive; we just want to compete and have fun. Disability should be looked passed and we should be viewed as only athletes.”
Mike Tanton, 2023 Saskatchewan Sport Awards Volunteer Dedication Award recipient
“Go out of your way to bring people in and get people involved. Make a conscious effort to invite people and share moments with them. There is a lesson to learn about what inclusion actually looks like. It starts with small actions, such as inviting people to sit with you. If people go out of their way to reach out to people and make them feel like they are a part of the group, that is something that will trigger an avalanche of positive change.”
Amy Prokop, University of Saskatchewan assistant soccer coach
“I didn’t have many barriers that affected me when I was getting access to sport when I was a young girl, but I did not have a lot of female role models in sport when I was growing up. Not having that type of female role model, really limited what I saw for myself in sport. Having intersecting identities and being a queer woman, coming out at the age of 30, when I think back, a barrier was not feeling that comfortability of coming out sooner. I think it’s interesting to consider all your different identities and how barriers may have come into play based on those.”