Golfing for Gold: Building Confidence and Community Among Aboriginal Youth


Band Councilor Hughie Tallman of Whitefish Lake First Nation (left) partnered with Sheldon Oleksyn, Executive Director of Sport Central (right), to distribute 50 sets of golf clubs to Aboriginal youth.
Band Councilor Hughie Tallman of Whitefish Lake First Nation (left) partnered with Sheldon Oleksyn, Executive Director of Sport Central (right), to distribute 50 sets of golf clubs to Aboriginal youth.

When we think about golf, we often think of the mechanics: the fitted clubs, the perfect swing, the better score. Golf, however, is far more than mechanics. It is also a good teacher of discipline, sportsmanship, etiquette, and inner confidence. Several Aboriginal communities across Alberta have partnered with Alberta’s Promise partner Sport Centralto create opportunities for local youth to build their skills and their self-esteem on the green.

Golf is the summertime sport of choice in many Aboriginal communities, rivalled only by hockey in winter. In the central-Alberta community of Maskwacis, the power of sport has been transformative. The Maskwacis Sporting Equipment Program, operating from the Jim Rattlesnake building, supplies donated and refurbished sporting equipment from Sport Central to kids and families in the region. The program was started last November with the first shipment of sporting equipment into the community, and its setup was modelled after the successful Sport Central distribution program in the northern Alberta community of Calling Lake. Since then, the program has grown to offer not only winter sporting equipment but also a variety of summer gear, the biggest in-demand being golf clubs. Luckily, as pointed out by Wilf Brooks, a founding member of Sport Central and member of the Premier’s Council on Alberta’s Promise, golf equipment is in large supply at Sport Central.

The Maskwacis Sporting Equipment Program is a community affair. Kyle Wolfe and Jason Makinaw help run the distribution centre, carefully inventorying all equipment and following up with recipient families to encourage kids’ participation in sport. Equipment is supplied to regional schools in Wetaskiwin, Pigeon Lake, nearby Aboriginal communities, as well as the Maskwacis Arena. The program emphasizes the need to play safe, and it nurtures kids’ connection to family and community.

With over 200 golf club sets distributed in central Alberta through four shipments, the impact of the program is coming to fruition. Wolfe has noticed that kids and parents are spending more quality family time on the green. Kids are learning about responsibility and sportsmanship while taking care of their equipment. Many Aboriginal youth are placing in medal standing positions at regional golf tournaments, proudly demonstrating their newfound skills. Wolfe’s own 12-year-old son won gold at the Alberta Indigenous Games and several other tournaments, inspiring younger kids to achieve their potential through sport.

The process of supplying equipment to kids through regional distribution centres has also taken hold in other communities. The Band Councilor Hughie Tallman of Whitefish Lake First Nation in northern Alberta partnered with Sport Central to distribute 50 golf sets to kids in the community. The band also secured a group membership with the local golf course to make sure kids have the opportunity to walk onto the course and hone their skills. This level of community support resulted in a gold medal for a local youth at the 2015 Alberta Indigenous Games.

Thanks to partnerships like these, many Aboriginal kids have new opportunities for personal growth and self-expression through sport. Sport Central is deeply committed to promoting kids’ well-being through sport; volunteer support and funding is always appreciated.

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Source Alberta’s Promise