Craig MacDougall’s message to Team P.E.I. is a simple one.
“We want them to be competitive, and are not going to put pressure on them and say, ‘OK, you have to come back with medals,’” said MacDougall. “We want them to experience a great sporting event and cultural event as well.”
MacDougall, who is from Summerside, is the chef de mission for Team P.E.I. at the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in Toronto and Hamilton, Ont., from July 16-23. Team P.E.I.’s roster is comprised of athletes from across the province.
“It’s exciting,” said MacDougall. “The kids are getting pumped.”
A total of 27 athletes and a 40-member contingent will represent P.E.I. at the NAIG, which is held every three years.
This is the second-largest contingent to represent P.E.I., with the largest being 47.
“In every sport we had a call out to communities and a tryout basis, where kids went through a number of skills depending on the sport,” said MacDougall in explaining the selection process for Team P.E.I. “The criteria they were using was set by the last NAIGs.”
Athletes were notified of their selection to Team P.E.I. in February, and they also had to commit to a training schedule.
P.E.I. will be represented in badminton, athletics and, for the first time, in swimming, 3D archery and rifle shooting.
“The good thing about our team is a lot of the kids are 16 and under, so they will have the opportunity to participate in two different Games,” said MacDougall, who noted P.E.I. athletes range in age from 10 to 19.
P.E.I.’s medals at two previous the NAIGs were A look at Team P.E.I. for the North American Indigenous Games, taking place July 16-23:
Jonah Kilbride, Bayside Jesse Labobe, Elmsdale. Kavon Bernard, Lennox Island. Keely Dyment, Lennox Island. Nikeda Sark, Lennox Island. Mackenzie Thomas, Lennox Island.
Alyssa-Jo Bernard, Lennox Island. Brandon Bernard, Lennox Island.
Robin Enman, Miscouche.
Hannah Arsenault, Lennox Island.
Athletes both won in 2002.
Charlene Tuplin Campbell claimed gold in taekwondo in 2002, and Amanda Francis had a gold-medal performance in boxing.
The next NAIG is scheduled for 2020, and MacDougall would like to continue to increase the number of sports P.E.I. competes in.
Two possibilities, he noted, are golf and beach volleyball.
MacDougall noted, due to population numbers, P.E.I. has and will continue to focus more on individual sports.
“That is because of the number of Aboriginal people on the Island — 2,500 or so compared to thousands and thousands,” said MacDougall.
“Some other contingencies are bringing 550 athletes, coaches, chaperones compared to our 40.”
MacDougall pointed out noted the NAIG experience is more than just sports.
“In the evenings, there is cultural entertainment, and there are cultural opportunities where they can experience other aboriginal cultures from North America during this whole week,” he said.
“Then you have the pin trading and things like that. It’s a very exciting time.”