Coaches wanted for winter games

Fort Liard clinic helps train local adults to coach snowshoe biathlon

Roxanna Thompson | ACHO DENE KOE/FORT LIARD
October 9, 2014
Charlene Bertrand, front, Hailey Sassie, Dallas Sassie, Tyrone Berreault and Cameron Bertrand shoot air rifles at targets in Echo Dene School's gymnasium on Sept. 26 during the first day of a two-day marksmanship coaching clinic in Fort Liard. The clinic's goal was to develop local adult snowshoe biathlon coaches who can help youth train for the 2016 Arctic Winter Games trials. - photo courtesy of Vince Bertrand

Charlene Bertrand, front, Hailey Sassie, Dallas Sassie, Tyrone Berreault and Cameron Bertrand shoot air rifles at targets in Echo Dene School’s gymnasium on Sept. 26 during the first day of a two-day marksmanship coaching clinic in Fort Liard. The clinic’s goal was to develop local adult snowshoe biathlon coaches who can help youth train for the 2016 Arctic Winter Games trials. – photo courtesy of Vince Bertrand

The next Arctic Winter Games aren’t until March 2016, but sports enthusiasts in Fort Liard are already preparing.

Pat Bobinski of Hay River led a marksmanship coaching clinic in the hamlet from Sept. 26 to 27. Although youth were the primary participants in the two-day event, their development wasn’t the core focus.

“The idea is to train local people to coach in the sport of biathlon,” said Roslyn Gardner Firth, the hamlet’s manager of recreation and youth, who organized the clinic.

Blair Kotchea represented Fort Liard in snowshoe biathlon during the 2010 Arctic Winter Games. In the subsequent games Gardner Firth and local youth athletes have concentrated on other sports including snowboarding and soccer.

“We’re working towards the 2016 Arctic Winter Games and hoping to get some kids ready for the selection camps,” she said.

On Sept. 26, approximately 20 youth arrived at Echo Dene School’s gym to practice shooting indoors with air rifles. Bobinski used the youth to demonstrate to three local adults how to run a range safely, how to properly use air rifles and how to coach marksmanship.

In addition to pointing out what to look for and how to help the youth shoot properly and safely, Bobinski also provided ideas for competitions that will help keep kids interested and excited, said Gardner Firth.

“He’s the expert in the NWT,” she said.

The following day, the lesson was taken outdoors to the community’s gravel pit where approximately six adults helped set up a temporary shooting range. About 15 youth used the range to shoot with .22s.

Bobinski showed the coaches in training how to score shots and how to run a variety of competitions.

“A lot of it was how to coach the kids properly,” she said.

A bonfire and wiener roast concluded the afternoon of shooting.

With coaches in development, the next step to prepare for the trials, which are expected to be held in December 2015, will be to hold regular target shooting practices indoors with air rifles, said Gardner Firth. Once there is snow on the ground, the snowshoe training will commence.

Shooting, Gardner Firth noted, is the fun part of the sport. Running on snowshoes is challenging and requires a high level of physical fitness and dedication. Most of the youth in the hamlet haven’t tried snowshoe biathlon before.

“We’re just introducing the idea to them,” she said.

The 2016 Arctic Winter Games will be in Nuuk, Greenland. The clinic in Fort Liard was funded by the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs’ Sport Leaders Program.