Written by: Matt Johnson for Coaches Association of Saskatchewan
The Canada Games are calling Cory Gratton’s name.
Gratton, who is a teacher at Avery Outreach School in Lloydminster, Sask., is one of two Saskatchewan coaches who have been selected to be a part of the Coaching Association of Canada’s Canada Games Aboriginal Apprenticeship Coaches Program.
The program provides Gratton with the opportunity to serve as apprentice coach for Team Saskatchewan’s boys volleyball team at the 2022 Canada Summer Games in Niagara, Ont. when the games begin on Aug. 6, 2022.
“The boys involved with the Canada Games program are a great group of young athletes and the best in the province,” said Gratton.
Gratton, who coached for Saskatchewan at the 2017 North American Indigenous Games in Toronto is cognizant of the importance of having initiatives such as this to help break barriers within sport.
“When I learned about it quite some time ago, I was pretty excited to hear that the initiative was in place,” said Gratton. “There’s so many good Indigenous coaches in Saskatchewan for volleyball with great programs and I’m hoping I’m going to encourage some of them to get involved in this program.”
Gratton is hoping through his involvement with the team, he is able to help bridge the gap and better align the training between the Indigenous Games and Canada Games teams, in order to better prepare Indigenous athletes.
There’s so many good Indigenous coaches in Saskatchewan for volleyball with great programs and I’m hoping I’m going to encourage some of them to get involved in this program – Cory Gratton on why the Canada Games Aboriginal Apprenticeship Coaches Program is important.
One specific aspect Gratton has enjoyed about the mentorship program is being able to walk into a practice without a plan. Instead, the veteran coach is able to experience first-hand how other coaches run their sessions and interact with their player.
“It’s nice to be a fly on the wall and take all that in. There’s lots to learn,” said Gratton.
The opportunity to attend the Canada Games will be cherished by Gratton. He missed his own opportunity to compete as a volleyball athlete when the event was between cycles during his eligibility period.
Growing up in the nineties as a player in Lloydminster, Gratton would take the Greyhound bus into Saskatoon to compete. His commitment to the sport led him to a , spot on the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s volleyball team. But after injuries cut his playing career short with the Huskies, Gratton turned to coaching.
Gatton realized the importance of the sport in his own life and while pursuing a degree in education, coaching became the vehicle to help him stay involved in the game.
“A lot of things from the time I was a teenager onwards kind of came back to volleyball,” said Gratton.
While Gratton’s own playing career didn’t begin until his teenage years, he best enjoys coaching athletes between the Grade Five to Seven-seven level in the town he grew up in.
“They love this sport, and they start to form this identity around sport. I think that’s such a great thing to be a part of for kids,” Gratton.“I think that’s why I continue to coach, through recognizing what it did for me.”