Running can improve mental health: Sask. First Nations Summer Games coach

Sask. First Nations Summer Games kicks off

The Saskatchewan First Nations Summer Games kicked off in Regina Sunday and thousands of kids from 74 first nations communities are competing for gold in a wide variety of sports, from track and field to soccer.

All coaches want their kids to succeed and File Hills Qu’Appelle (FHQ) Tribal Council athletics supervisor Ken Thomas hopes they gain additional skills as well.

“These are tomorrow’s leaders, so they can get those leadership skills and all that other fun stuff,” he said.

Thomas knows a thing or two about developing leadership skills through the games. He competed during his teenage years and has been a coach on the FHQ team for three years.

READ MORE: 74 Indigenous Saskatchewan communities to compete in First Nations Summer Games

He spent Saturday coaching his athletes in running and throwing events. Originally from Cumberland House, Thomas wants to share lessons he’s learned from running beyond his home tribal council.

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“I want to have my own aboriginal running club. From there I want to transition to motivational speaking with youth up north,” he explained.

Thomas sees running as not just a way to a healthy body, but a healthy mind as well. He believes running can be a valuable tool in helping address mental health issues that face indigenous youth, such as suicide in northern communities.

Right now, Thomas is looking into grant options to make his idea a reality.

“We need more running clubs, we need more athletics for the youth so they can stay positive and have something to look forward to,” Thomas said.

“Get them moving, get the endorphins and serotonin [and] get everything running. Have them look forward to something and work from that.”

As for why Thomas believes running could be a way to combat youth suicide, it’s a matter of simplicity.

“It’s basic, just a pair of shoes, some water, a good motivational coach, and I believe it could be a universal thing.”

The games wrap up on Aug. 11. When Thomas isn’t coaching his kids, he’ll be busy talking with representatives from northern communities about his idea.