First Nations bench boss wins Indigenous coaching award

Thursday, November 9th, 2023 3:14pm


Image Caption

Tyndall Fontaine is this year's male recipient of the National Indigenous Coaching Award.
By Sam Laskaris
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Tyndall Fontaine, a member of Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba, who has held various recent lacrosse coaching gigs, is this year’s male recipient of the National Indigenous Coaching Award.

“I think it’s kind of crazy,” Fontaine said of the win. “But it feels awesome. And it’s an honour to get this award.”

Savanna Smith, who has Blackfoot ancestry and who is also a lacrosse coach, is the female winner of the award. Smith lives in Surrey, B.C.

Representatives from the governing body for Indigenous athletics in Canada, the Aboriginal Sport Circle, annually select the award winners.

Fontaine and Smith were officially presented with their awards on Nov. 3 during the Petro-Canada Sport Leadership Awards Gala in Calgary. That event was hosted by the Coaching Association of Canada.

Fontaine, who is 29, grew up playing box lacrosse in his community. Sagkeeng is the only First Nation in Manitoba that enters youth clubs in a league in Winnipeg. Sagkeeng First Nation is about a 90-minute drive northeast of Winnipeg.

Fontaine, who also works as a development co-ordinator with Treaty 1, has been busy this year with coaching assignments.

One of his positions was serving as the head coach for the Manitoba boys’ under-16 club that participated at the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG). Those Games, which were held in July, were primarily staged in Halifax.

Fontaine guided his team to a fourth-place finish at NAIG. Manitoba was downed by Alberta in its bronze-medal contest.

He said his squad only had 14 runners at NAIG and that some of them saw very limited action.

“It was pretty hard trying to play with 10 or 11 runners,” he said.

Fontaine also worked with many of the province’s top youth players when he helped coach a Manitoba provincial elite program, which offered both girls’ and boys’ teams.

He was part of the coaching staff for the Manitoba boys’ under-17 club, which placed fifth at its national tournament held in Regina this past August.

He’s expecting to have a busy schedule for the next two years. That’s because he recently agreed to serve as an assistant coach for the Manitoba boys’ under-17 team that will compete at the 2025 Canada Summer Games. Those Games will be held in St. John’s, Nfld.

Though he is still relatively young and has moved up the coaching ranks, Fontaine is uncertain at this point whether he eventually aspires to be a bench boss for junior, senior or even pro teams.

“I like where I am right now,” he said. “I still get to work with Indigenous youth in my community.”

Plus, his day job, which he commutes to Winnipeg for, also takes up a good chunk of his time.

“I’d like to see how busy I am during the next two summers,” he said of his Canada Summer Games gig.

“I am deeply honoured and grateful for this recognition,” he said of winning the national coaching award.

“Coaching lacrosse has always been a labour of love. And to see the impact it has had on my athletes is the greatest reward.”

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