Gabrielle Wishart

November 7, 2023

Volleyball coach nabs Sport Manitoba award 

Red River Métis volleyball coach Gabrielle Wishart received the Peter Williamson Memorial Award for
Train to Compete/Train to Win.

From player to coach, volleyball player Gabrielle Wishart strives to promote inclusivity and make a positive impact on Youths' lives when they step on the court. 

The Red River Métis athlete has been coaching for seven years, beginning with the 204 Volleyball Club as an assistant coach on one of the 15U teams. Since then, she has coached 13U, 14U, and 15U squads at the club level for the past six years. She has also coached Grade 9 girls' teams at Vincent Massey Collegiate, and recently head-coached at the 2023 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG).  

She said her reason behind getting into coaching was twofold. 

"The lack of female head coaches and some unfortunate encounters with coaches as an athlete. Yet, it was also through the examples of positive mentors," Wishart said, "Red River Métis coaches I had the privilege of encountering through the North American Indigenous Games, that sparked my passion for coaching. Their unwavering dedication and commitment to their athletes left a mark on my coaching philosophy."

The Red River Métis coach was recently honoured with the Peter Williamson Memorial Award for Train to Compete/Train to Win at the Sport Manitoba Coaching Awards. This honour is bestowed on coaches who predominantly work with high-performance athletes competing at the national or international level.

Wishart dedicated the award to her parents, who've been instrumental to her athletic journey and coaching career.

"My mother has been an unwavering source of encouragement and actively involved in my athletic pursuits," she said. "Her tireless dedication has seen her volunteer her time, manage teams, and offer steadfast support. Through her selfless commitment, my brothers and I were not only motivated but also empowered to explore a diverse array of sports. Her influence has enriched our lives and instilled the core values of dedication and perseverance." 

The volleyball coach credited many others for making her coaching journey possible.

"(I want to thank) the mentors I have had while coaching: Marc Proulx, Jayme Menzies, Jared Brown of 204 Volleyball Club, and the countless other mentors that have been a part of my journey," she said. "I also want to thank the Manitoba Aboriginal Sports & Recreation Council for both selecting me as a coach and nominating me for this award, Sport Manitoba for this honour, and the Manitoba Métis Federation for their support of my journey as a Métis athlete, university student, and coach."

Wishart summarized her coaching style in three words: dynamic, encouraging, and growth-oriented.

"I firmly believe in creating a nurturing and safe space for athletes to explore their potential by taking calculated risks during play. This approach fosters self-efficacy and helps them build trust in themselves as individual players and as an integral part of the team," she said.

The Red River Métis Citizen added that her mission as a coach extends beyond the confines of the court. 

"It's about fostering resilience, instilling a growth mindset, and empowering athletes to face challenges with confidence," she said. "In doing so, I aim to not only contribute to their success on the court but also equip them with life skills that will serve them well beyond the realm of sports."

Before Wishart dove into the world of coaching, one of the proudest moments from her volleyball career was attending the North American Indigenous Games in 2014, where she brought home the gold at just 15 years old.

"I achieved a momentous feat that had a profound impact on my journey of self-discovery. Our team's hard-fought gold medal win at the 2014 North American Indigenous Games marked a turning point in my life," she said. "I was at a time when I was still uncertain about my identity as a Métis person. This victory, born out of dedication and teamwork, mirrored my current path as a female Métis volleyball coach." 

Wishart's team would go 8-0 in round-robin action at the 2023 NAIG, including defeating
Team Saskatchewan in three sets to bring home the gold medal.

The Red River Métis coach was selected to lead the Manitoba U16 female volleyball team at the 2020 North American Indigenous Games, but the COVID-19 pandemic put those plans on hold. Wishart would end up coaching the U16 male team at the 2023 NAIG in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which held personal significance for her. 

"In the sports realm, female head coaches remain a rarity, especially in male volleyball teams. (While) climbing the coaching ranks, you encounter fewer female coaches, and male coaches often lead female teams. Moreover, there is a noticeable shortage of Indigenous volleyball coaches at higher levels," she said. "This context amplifies the value of my coaching role. I approach it with a sense of humility, grateful for the opportunity to guide athletes at competitive levels while embracing the learning and growth that lie ahead." 

Wishart relished the opportunity to integrate elements of her Red River Métis culture into her coaching approach to create an inclusive atmosphere. 

"I encouraged athletes to share their cultural backgrounds through various team bonding exercises. In the world of sports, there's often an expectation to compartmentalize personal experiences, neglecting the fact that our differences can collectively strengthen the team," she said. "Recognizing and celebrating these diverse experiences is integral to fostering unity and resilience within the group."

Her team would go 8-0 in round-robin action, including defeating Team Saskatchewan in three sets to bring home the gold medal.

"Athletes on our team came from across the province, bringing different experiences and playing styles. Despite this, they quickly formed a formidable and aggressive opponent, being the strongest attacking team at the tournament," Wishart said.  

After the gold medal match, the Red River Métis coach fondly recalled the team spending their last days at the games together in Halifax. They talked about their school sports, future club teams, and how they'd miss playing together. Wishart's athletes were already excited about the next NAIG in 2027.

"Even though some of them would be too old to play in the next Games, they promised each other to come back as helpers. They wanted to be coaches or chaperones because they cherished the friendships they'd formed during the games," she said. "To me, this sums up everything that I love about this sport. It shows how much sports can mean to people and how it creates strong bonds. It's not just about playing; it's about building a community and helping each other grow."

While on the court, Wishart believes in fostering the development of athletes through high-performance training and mental preparation. One of the ways the coach achieves this is through ensuring players believe in their own abilities. 

"I want athletes to truly believe they can succeed in various aspects of the game," she said. "Once an athlete's self-efficacy is eroded, it can be a challenging skill to rebuild. Confidence is a cornerstone of success in sports, and I aim to instill in my athletes the unwavering belief that they are capable of more than they might initially think."  


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