By Sarah Tone, Communications Coordinator
Coaches are dedicated mentors and role models who continuously shape our province’s treasured athletes and nurture the values of sport. They are committed to help athletes build their character, sharpen their skills, and reach their full potential. One of the many ways we recognize these efforts is during National Coaches Week, which is a celebration of coaches and their life-long impact on athletes and our sport communities.
Every year, Sport Manitoba Coaching coordinates free professional development courses and training sessions during National Coaches Week that help coaches maintain their certifications, remain in good standing with their sports, and help prepare them for the upcoming season.
In addition to providing these opportunities again this year, we’re pleased to announce the recipients of the Sport Manitoba Coaching Awards presented by Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries :
Photo by Mike Sudoma/COC
Vince Leah Memorial Award – Fundamentals
Kurtis Cullen | Racquetball | Brandon
This award recognizes coaches who coach grassroots-level athletes of any age through a non-competitive approach, focusing on participation and making sport fun.
Kurtis Cullen (Brandon, MB) puts the fun in FUNdamentals. Coaching the Brandon Racquetball Association Junior Program, he has his creative ways of making learning entertaining– Blaze Pods, hitting tees, a ball machine, and a radar gun. Kurtis plays a huge role in character development of starting athletes. With this, he makes sure that every athlete knows the importance of respect towards officials, coaches, opponents, and their fellow athletes.
Through Kurtis’ dedication and sincere devotion to the sport, he was able to skyrocket the program’s participants from 7 to 50 juniors registered in the Spring of 2023.
Konica Minolta Dr. Jack Hunt Award – Learn to Train
Sandra Page | Canoe Kayak | Winnipeg
This award recognizes coaches who are developing athletes’ competitive skills while preparing them for regional and provincial competitions.
Sandra Page (Winnipeg, MB) has coached in canoe kayak for six years. She supervises the Manitoba Canoe and Kayak Club Youth Group and facilitates training camps and clinics. She also facilitates winter pool practice sessions for swimming and pool paddling, and evaluates performance during tests and races – which is part of the selection process for the provincial team. This year, Sandra successfully encouraged her athletes in the Youth Group to ease into competitions. She provided coaching at Spring Training Camp in Portugal in March, encouraged new athletes to compete in the Manitoba Cup, and supervised her team at the Regatta in Regina, summer training in Banff, and the Canada Summer Games in Niagara.
Janet Arnott Memorial Award – Train to Train
Kyler Murray | Badminton | Oakbank
This award recognizes coaches who work with athletes competing at the Canada Games and National Championships.
Kyler Murray (Oakbank, MB) has coached badminton for a decade, and has served on both the middle school and high school badminton teams in Oakbank. He has also assisted in providing badminton lessons to various age groups ranging from junior, teen, and intermediate. This year, Kyler was an apprentice coach for 2023 Canada Winter Games, and was selected to be the Head Coach for the badminton team who competed in the 2023 North American Indigenous Games in Halifax.
As a coach, Kyler creates an enriching environment for his team by introducing his athletes to a variety of training and exercises, where he focuses on core values and all-around development.
Peter Williamson Memorial Award – Train to Compete/Train to Win
Gabrielle Wishart | Volleyball | Winnipeg
This award recognizes coaches who primarily coach high-performance athletes who compete at the national or international level.
Gabrielle Wishart (Winnipeg) has coached volleyball for seven years. She has facilitated community developmental volleyball programs, and advocates for athlete development and skills development for newcomers– few of the many reasons why she was named Head Coach for Team Manitoba’s 16U male volleyball team at the 2023 North American Indigenous Games. Her team successfully finished with an 8-0 record and headed into the international championship.
As a coach, Gabrielle embodies the true spirit of sport by promoting respect, inclusion, and integrity within and beyond her team. She creates a safe and inclusive environment for her athletes by respecting all their religious and cultural differences, and by making sure that her team’s relationships with each other are rooted in learning more about their identity as Indigenous athletes.
“One of Sport Manitoba’s key functions is the training, development, and continued support of our province’s coaches. We want to say #ThanksCoach to coaches who have a positive impact on our youth, shaping athletes as exceptional role models and citizens. A special congratulations to Kurtis Cullen, Kyler Murray, Gabrielle Wishart, and Sandra Page on being this year’s winners of the Sport Manitoba Coaching Awards presented by Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries! It’s coaches like you who help create a strong foundation for amateur sport to thrive in Manitoba.”
Janet McMahon, President & CEO, Sport Manitoba
National Coaches Week runs from September 16 – 24, 2023, and we’re encouraging Manitobans to post thank you messages to recognize their own coaches on social media. Use the hashtag #ThanksCoach, and tag @SportManitoba on Twitter and Instagram, or @SportMB on Facebook.