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Trailblazing Trojans

Sheldon Kennedy (centre) takes part in the DJ Glow Spin Event for SAIT's Make Some Noise for Mental Health campaign.

Sheldon Kennedy (centre) takes part in the DJ Glow Spin Event for SAIT's Make Some Noise for Mental Health campaign. The Trojans are providing athletes with access to leadership training from Kennedy's organization, Respect in Sport.

Leadership comes with being an athlete — that's the message being delivered to SAIT Trojans as part of a new program on campus offered by the Sheldon Kennedy-run Respect Group.

"They are all looked upon as leaders by those they mentor in the community and at school," says the former NHLer who is now recognized for his social advocacy work.

"Leadership, in this case, becomes an expectation and the activity leader training will help them be the best role models they can be."

Unveiled as part of the Make Some Noise for Mental Health campaign, Trojans athletes will have the opportunity to go through the Respect Group's online course, which is designed to give participants the tools to prevent abuse, bullying and harassment.

SAIT is the first post-secondary institution in Alberta, and second in Canada, to encourage all of its athletes to undergo this training.

"They will learn about all forms of maltreatment and, as leaders, what they need to do to respond if they witness it," says Kennedy. "The knowledge will empower them to step up and step in when necessary."

Second-year Civil Engineering Technology student Tashel Scantlebury just started the training and sees it aligning with her future goals.

"It's going to make a really positive impact because I'd like to get into coaching down the line," she says. "I'm glad I'm doing the course."

Off the field

Scantlebury, who is in her third season as a member of the Trojans' women's hockey team, adds the program has given her important tools that extend beyond the ice.

"It's shown me everyone has their own story and deals with things in different ways," she says. Kennedy sees the training helping SAIT athletes outside of sports and the classroom by outlining the mental health outcomes of all forms of maltreatment.

"These athletes will be much better aware of the mental health impacts, and they will be able to apply that knowledge well beyond the campus environment," he says.

Scantlebury is already urging others to undergo the training.

"Once you get into it, you start learning things you never thought of before," she says. "I would encourage it, for sure."

Paving the way

Billie Rae Busby, Marketing and Communications Coordinator, SAIT Trojans, hopes SAIT is the first of many post-secondary schools to adopt this leadership approach.

"This is an opportunity for our Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) partners to see some other training opportunities," she says. "Many already do outreach or are involved in working with the youth in their communities."

Kennedy sees SAIT athletes setting an example for the greater athletic community in Calgary.

"With everything we have done at Respect Group, it takes an organization to become a catalyst," he says. "This will send a strong message to the broader sports environment within Calgary and give student athletes what they need to be successful in it."