Brady Paul wants to give young athletes the support they didn’t have during their student-athlete days.
The 28-year-old former soccer player from St. Mary’s First Nation in Fredericton, NB, was recently named the new chair of Atlantic University Sport’s equity, diversity and inclusion advisory committee.
Growing up, the First Nations community was united and supported Paul’s dreams of playing soccer.
But when he moved to Nova Scotia in 2011 to attend college and play soccer, he didn’t get that kind of encouragement on the field.
“It was a very difficult transition for me,” Paul said. “There was no real supports for someone like me, and I didn’t feel comfortable talking about some of the things that I’m going through and the problems or barriers that were there, because they are difficult things to talk about.”
Defining reconciliation and measuring its progress
Paul played three seasons at Acadia University before transferring to Saint Mary’s University in 2014 to finish his degree and play one more season of soccer.
He now works as an Indigenous Community and Cultural Liaison Coordinator for Nova Scotia Community College while pursuing an MA in Atlantic Canadian Studies at Saint Mary’s.
The AUS Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee is comprised of individuals involved on the 11 campuses within AUS, and has representation from the LGBTQ community, BIPOC, and athletes of color and other marginalized groups.
Paul said they will speak with student athletes from AUS schools to find out what their challenges are and make recommendations to the AUS board so that “everyone can progress as students and athletes, and progress on and off the field with no barriers.”
Mi’kmaq’s hockey legacy helps regain pride and inspires reconciliation
Improving diversity in sport makes it more encouraging for other young athletes who want to follow in his footsteps, Paul said.
“Once you see yourself there … it becomes more real to you,” he said.
“No one should be preparing themselves or having the narrative that they can’t do it just because of their origin, or what their cultural beliefs are, their orientation or their history.
“He is empowering these athletes now so that, in turn, they can empower athletes within their own home communities or within their circles.”
Residential school survivor shares her story on National Truth and Reconciliation Day
For example, Paul has always looked up to Josh Sacobie, who is also from the St. Mary’s First Nation and later played soccer at the University of Ottawa and had a successful career.
“That really resonated with me, because it’s something I thought I could see myself doing,” Paul said.
He said he hopes to meet with the committee in the coming weeks to talk about what they will do in the future.
‘They belong there’
In a press release, AUS President Phil Currie described Paul as “an incredible person who brings great empathy and expertise to this important role.”
“As a conference, we are committed to finding ways to better serve our student-athletes. Providing safe spaces for their voices to be heard is just the first step toward creating a more inclusive environment for college sports, ”Currie said.
Halifax Mooseheads ready to play their first QMJHL home game at full capacity
Paul said he was honored to be selected for the position and that he intends to stay as long as possible so that he can help student athletes achieve their dreams.
“If an athlete or someone does not feel that they belong to this level, or to that institution or in their sport, I will make sure they belong there and I will make sure that it is known that they are being heard, they are empowered,” he said.
“Whatever the results, it’s an experience and I’m really going to appreciate every moment.”
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.