Qualicum Beach athlete Willem Whitehead is one of six recipients on Vancouver Island of the 2020 Premier’s Awards for Indigenous Youth Excellence in Sport.
The awards, launched by the Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation Council (I·SPARC) in collaboration with the Province of British Columbia, recognize Indigenous athletes, under 25 years of age, who are competing in performance sport, and demonstrating a commitment to their education, culture, and promoting healthy and active lifestyles.
The 15-year-old Whitehead, of the We Wai Kai First Nation, engages in a variety of sports that include lacrosse, hockey, canoeing, track and field and basketball. And in every sport, Whitehead has shown dedication to be the best that he can be as a player and also as a teammate.
“It feels great and a great honour to be selected to receive the award,” said Whitehead. “It is so surprising too because I know there’s a bunch of great athletes on the Island.”
Athletes were nominated from each of the six I-SPARC regions that include Fraser, Interior, Northeast, Northwest, Vancouver Coastal and Vancouver Island.
The other award winners on Vancouver Island are Jakob Brager, 18, swimming, Nanaimo, Mid-Island Métis; Ellashani George, 16, war canoe and soccer, Duncan, Oneida Nation of the Thames; Megan McCool, 17, smallbore rifle, Victoria, Métis Nation BC; Tristan Thomas, 15, soccer, Nanaimo, Snuneymuxw First Nation; Kristine Williams, 19, volleyball and basketball, Duncan, Cowichan Tribes.
Whitehead said the award has humbled him. He aims to use the honour to motivate himself even more to achieve his goals not only in sports but also in his education.
If there’s one sport the Kwalikum Secondary student wants to truly excel in, it’s lacrosse. He is a member of the Oceanside Sharks midget lacrosse team.
“It’s a fun sport first of all,” said Whitehead. “And I just got better in lacrosse than in any other sports that I play. I hope to really improve and use it to land a scholarship some where when I finish high school.”
This year, Whitehead is disappointed they are not getting any chance to play league games and tournaments due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“This year we would have had a really good team especially in hockey,” said Whitehead. “It’s a big letdown that no games are happening. There’s a lot of talent going to waste.”
Whitehead is in Grade 10 but is already mapping the direction he wants to follow once he graduates from high school.
“My plan is to go to a university for a few years,” said Whitehead. “I don’t know what to study exactly but I know once I finish high school I want to be a cop.”
Due to the pandemic restrictions, the regional awards celebrations could not be held this year. As a way of honouring this year’s recipients, I·SPARC has produced a series of commemorative videos highlighting each of the region’s athletes and celebrating their outstanding achievements. These videos are on I·SPARC’s YouTube channel and other social media channels.
I·SPARC is a provincial organization established with the purpose of improving the health outcomes of Indigenous people by supporting and encouraging physically active individuals, families, and communities. The programs and services delivered by I·SPARC are designed to build capacity and increase access to sport, recreation, and physical activity in First Nations, Métis Chartered Communities, Aboriginal Friendship Centres, schools and other delivery agencies throughout British Columbia.