New program offers training for young BIPOC athletes in Hamilton
The goal is to help youth improve in sport. The bonus? More post-secondary opportunities, says coordinator
Growing up in downtown Hamilton, Vincent Kuber says there was a lack of training and other opportunities for young athletes who identified as Black, Indigenous, or People of Colour (BIPOC).
"I grew up with so many athletes where, if they were given the opportunity to go further with it after high school, I feel like they would have been very successful … They [would have received] an opportunity for post-secondary scholarships and education as well," Kuber told CBC Hamilton.
"Now as an adult having two kids, living life and moving back to the same area that I grew up in, nothing's changed. It's just getting worse … with the increased level of racism everywhere in the area as well, with graffiti and profanity in parks with kids."
Kuber, who is now 39, is on a quest for change. He is partnering with Kiwanis BGC Hamilton to launch an athletic development program for high school BIPOC athletes.
Kuber — who operates Steel Town Athletic Club (STAC) — is a personal trainer and run coach, training runners for ultramarathons such as 5K, 10K and 21K, and obstacle-course racing.
He said STAC's new Athletic Development Program is for BIPOC youth from14 to 18 years old.
"I want kids to be busy doing something, at least have a training program," Kuber said.
"The end goal is to help them achieve their sports milestones, but all take away personal and team skills that they can use in life. The bonus would be for them to receive post-secondary opportunities to further their athletics and education," Kuber said.
"We would like to ensure that there is a good mix of youths, from all walks of life and backgrounds. Reaching out to females and folks from the 2SLGBTQ+ community is important to me," he added.
The program is in its earliest stages. Kuber hosted a demo session for would-be participants outside the Bernie Custis Secondary School on Thursday.
He said student athletes can sign up via STAC's Facebook page. Training is scheduled to commence in October with in-person and online options available.
In every city, every town ... there is an area where there is marginalized folks and where that elite training isn't attainable for their parents' income.- Vincent Kuber, coordinator STAC's Athletic Development Program
Kuber said student athletes will receive customized assessments, training plans and one-on-one coaching and mentorship to help build strength, endurance, mobility and speed for peak performance in any sport. Guest coaches from McMaster Athletics will also visit to provide training and share about post-secondary opportunities in sports.
He said transportation assistance, nutrition and hydration will be provided, and committed athletes will have access to sports apparel like running shoes and other athletic gear.
He said the lack of these kinds of opportunities is widespread.
"[In] every city, every town ... there is an area where there is marginalized folks and where that elite training isn't attainable for their parents' income," he said.
'A great opportunity'
Marissa Dillon and Brandon Bernard, both executive members of the Black Student Athletes' Council at McMaster University, welcome the program.
"I think it's a great opportunity for Black student athletes to develop their athletic abilities but also to foster a sense of community amongst each other," Dillon told CBC Hamilton.
"I also think that having a distinct athletic program just for BIPOC athletes can help address the existing disparities of BIPOC representation amongst athletes who are recruited and committed by post-secondary institutions."
Dillon — who is also a student athlete at McMaster University and plays on the women's rugby team — believes the program will also help in combating "accessibility barriers" and provide resources that prevent BIPOC youth from accessing these opportunities, which can advance them to a higher level of sport.
"It seems like it's a great network of support that could help them achieve greater athletic ability and help provide them with greater opportunities to help advance them in the world of sport," Dillon said.
'Something that way overdue'
For Bernard, the program is "without a doubt 100 per cent important."
"I feel like a lot of black youth don't really get that voice and that shine that other groups usually get. So, giving them a spotlight in this kind of situation, especially athletics in Canada, is definitely something that way overdue," Bernard told CBC Hamilton.
"Especially this climate that we are in right now, I think it's so timely. I don't think that there's any better way right now to uplift athletics in the Black community than with a program like this. I think it's amazing."
Bernard — who plays for the basketball team at McMaster University — said he "would have been so excited" for a program like this when he was young.
"When I was younger I was coming from an area that didn't have the most opportunities. We kind of had to … go and find these opportunities or if you had a mentor so to speak that kind of took you out of the area to find these things," he said.
"So, the fact that it's kind of being stapled for these kids to be able to go there and just sort it out right there is amazing," Bernard said.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.