Everyone wins when a safe and inclusive culture is created within sports, says a sport recreation consultant.
Sarah Gallsworthy, with the company INclusion INcorporated based out of Markham, Ont., has been visiting the NWT to promote awareness and teach athletes, coaches and others involved in sports about the importance of having a level playing field when it comes to providing a welcoming atmosphere for participants of sporting events.
“We focus on EDI which is equity, diversity and inclusion and what we do is create a safer, more inclusive space for every person,” Gallsworthy said during a weekend of table tennis practice for upcoming Arctic Winter Games and Canada Winter Games participants in Yellowknife.
Gallsworthy said such awareness is a positive trend that is gaining traction in Canada among coaches, parents and players — as well as the general population.
“There are people all over the place in all walks of life and all races, cultures, ages, ethnicities and genders who are looking to create a more inclusive Canada and a more inclusive sport experience,” she said.
While visiting the NWT, Gallsworthy has been leading workshops on what it means to be inclusive.
“We are teaching them about pronouns, what the words inclusion and diversity mean, and how it can have an impact.
“Spending time in Fort Providence, Hay River, Yellowknife, and working with that diverse group of humans — we need to do a better job for them. We need to really step up to the plate and open up the door for others so they feel empowered to walk through the door,” Gallsworthy said of the need to provide an inclusive environment in which others can thrive.
And it is something everyone has the power to do, she said.
“All the people here — the athletes, the coaches, you and I — can have an impact on other people and make other people feel welcome,” said Gallsworthy. “In sport, it is important because everybody should have the opportunity to be active for their entire lifetime and sport is an amazing avenue for children.”
For Table Tennis North, she said they have created “Ask me my pronouns” pins as a way to raise awareness about diversity and inclusion.
“When you go to multi-sport games, athletes are obsessed with pins. They collect and trade them and it is a really great way for children to interact with one another. So, we have added this year an “Ask me my pronouns” pin. We are encouraging them to wear their pins on their lanyard and accreditation and also trade that pin with others,” she said. “We want to send a message to the world that whoever you are, you are welcome here at Table Tennis North and we will have a space for you.”