Fort Frances local leads volleyball team to North American Indigenous Games

Elisa Nguyen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

As head coach, Adyson Wilson has spent the past few weeks preparing to lead her 16U Aboriginal Team Ontario boys team to the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in Halifax in July.

“The last few weeks have been super, super busy,” she said.

The Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) volleyball player grew up in Fort Frances before moving to the Greater Toronto Area to pursue her volleyball career.

Wilson said this will be her second time at NAIG, but her first time as head coach.

Wilson applied for all the coaching positions for the 16U boys team and was surprised when her letter came in the mail in February that she was selected as head coach.

Although this isn’t her first time coaching a team, Wilson recognizes the significance of representing her province at a national event seeking to champion Indigenous Peoples.

“I feel really nervous,” she said. “I’ve coached for a few years, but it’s always been with my mom, I’ve always been her assistant coach, I’ve never been head coach. So jumping into something as big as the North American Indigenous Games as a provincial coach, representing my family, my First Nation community, as well as my province—it’s very nerve wracking. But I am very confident in myself and my abilities, and I know what I’m doing, so it’s gonna be good.”

With NAIG fast approaching, taking place between July 15 to July 23, 2023, Wilson has finished selecting her team players and is now holding practices.

To form a team that would play at NAIG, Wilson selected the best volleyball players out of the Indigenous youth community in Ontario. Players came from cities across the province such as Sault Sainte Marie, Sudbury, Guelph, Kenora, Moose Factory, and Kingston.

Wilson said she watched many try out videos online due to the distance required to attend the games in person. “If you watch any sport, on video and in person, it’s very, very different. So it was a little bit of a struggle for me, but it was good,” she said.

Wilson picked up many coaching tips from her mother who coaches the 19U Aboriginal Team Ontario girls team.

Former Fort Frances resident Adyson Wilson has been selected as head coach to lead the U16 Ontario boys team in the North American Indigenous Games,
later this summer. – Submitted photo

“I am like my mom in her coaching, but my university coaches, I also pick up on stuff that they are teaching me. So I think it’s like a good mix of her and my university coaches. They’re very knowledgeable,” she said.

The transition from being a player to working as head coach required a mental shift, she said.

“I have really bad performance and anxiety, so I always look at the outcome or the result, whereas as a coach, you can’t look at the result right away. It’s a process, right? So you look at things like technique.”

Remembering that NAIG is also an opportunity to connect with Indigenous culture is one of the most important things Wilson tells her team.

“If they don’t get a medal, that’s okay. It’s the experience that they’re going to bring home with it,” she said.

Wilson competed at NAIG in 2017 and describes it as one of the best experiences of her life. The Black Eyed Peas performed at the ceremony, she said, and there were many moments of cultural celebration that she has never forgotten.

“Cherish the moments that you’re gonna have there, because you probably won’t ever be able to experience something like that again,” she said.

Volleyball has become a large part of Wilson’s identity and her mental health has been highly dependent on her ability to play. “It keeps me happy,” she said.

In order to recover from an injury, Wilson was told to take a break from playing, forcing her to relearn and accept other parts of herself.

“My mindset has switched so it’s not all about my performance. After university, I’m not going to have volleyball, so I need to be okay with who I am as a person,” she said.

To aspiring athletes, Wilson advises to network in the industry in order to build a strong support system who will push you to do your best.

“If you don’t have people around you who are willing to support you and push you to be your best, you’re not gonna figure out who you are and what you want to be, and get you to your best,” she said.

“The journey to being great is not a straight line. You’re going to fail, you’re going to have setbacks, but that is part of the process. It’s not going to be easy. But, you know, that process separates the great from the good.”