A Peace River skating coach is taking what she learned at the Canada Winter Games and bringing it home. Anne-Marie Behnke recently returned from Red Deer after taking part in the Aboriginal Apprentice Coach Program. She says participating was an incredible experience that was especially important for someone from a northern community.

“I’d say it provided a support system [and] further training for me to accomplish my national level training… I think it really helps the people up north especially myself in Peace River. It helps us where we are a little bit more isolated in the community and it helps us tap into a higher level of resources.”

The coaching program is designed to give those with Indigenous backgrounds the opportunity to learn and train with higher level coaches, expose them to multi-sport event like the Canada Winter Games and give them the tools to earn higher level credentials. Since Behnke was chosen for the program a year and a half, she has travelled all across the province and to Ottawa for training, seminars and courses.

Figure skating has been a part of Behnke’s life since she was a child. She skated competitively until she went to university when she switched to coaching. She currently coaches at the Peace River Skating Club and helps out at clubs in Grande Prairie and in the smaller surrounding communities. She says her favourite part of the games was helping all the new athletes.

“We did things from orientation, coaching on the practices, team building, to the coaches meetings and then to be able to sit in the kiss and cry with our athletes that did win gold medals or that had personal bests, that definitely was a huge highlight.”

Alberta skaters took home six medals at the games, including three gold, one silver, and two bronze. Behnke now plans to continue coaching and working towards her national level credentials.