On November 7, Border City Athletics Club in Windsor, Ont. is running the Women Can: Women Empowering Women summit. This virtual event will see a number of world-class panelists and special guests, including world championship medallists and leading experts in the fields of coaching, sports science and nutrition.
This star-studded lineup of 17 speakers, which includes Canadian 800m record-holder Melissa Bishop, nutrition expert Jen Sygo, 100mH world champion Nia Ali and Canadian Olympian Hilary Stellingwerff, will be leading sessions aimed at empowering women and minorities and helping them get into coaching.
Kurt Downes, head coach and founder of Border City AC and a Windsor schoolteacher, says he put together the event because he’s seen an issue in the sport that he wants to fix. “We lose a lot of kids in track. They start strong and then, all of a sudden, they’re gone. Some of the reason is financial, some is socioeconomic and some of it is gendered.”
Downes says he sees many talented young women leave sport because they literally don’t see themselves participating at the highest level. Most televised sport is of men, and then there are the real-life examples that girls see. “Young women see the boys playing basketball at recess and the boys playing sports in gym class and they feel like there isn’t a place for them. Once I pulled up the world championship 800m final to show the girls what elite running looks like. I want them to know that they’re meant to play sports if they want to.”
Downes believes that fixing these issues can come from encouraging more women to get into coaching. “Women need to see people that look like them coaching. That requires coaches from all backgrounds and disciplines. I want to help keep BIPOC kids in track, but I also want to reach women generally as well.”
The schedule for the day is a pair of two-hour sessions. Each session will cover topics such as racial inequalities, gender barriers, training foundations, nutrition and parenting young female athletes. Each topic will feature an expert in that field to answer questions and provide guidance.
The ultimate goal for Downes is to one day raise enough money through this event to extend a scholarship to a young BIPOC woman to attend the University of Windsor. “Eventually, if we have 1,000 people participate, we can get close to raising the money we’d need.”
Registration is only $20 and goes toward supplying BIPOC girls aged 10 to 14 in Windsor-Essex county with proper athletic gear and opportunities to participate in athletics.
The registration link can be found here.