By: Andy Prest / North Shore News
Lyric Atchison goes through her training regime at North Vancouver’s Game Ready Fitness. The Carson Graham student and Squamish Nation member recently received a Premier’s Award for Aboriginal Youth Excellence in Sport. Photo by: Cindy Goodman, North Shore News
Lyric Atchison has heard about the barriers that she should be facing in life, but she sure isn’t letting them slow her down as she blasts her way to success on and off the field of play.
On Thursday the Carson Graham Grade 12 student received a Premier’s Award for Aboriginal Youth Excellence in Sport for the Vancouver Coastal region, an honour that recognizes athletes who display leadership qualities, are committed to pursuing a higher education, and are recognized as community role models.
The Squamish Nation member is a national-level youth wrestler and rugby player. The Premier’s Award is meaningful for her because it recognizes her connection to her community.
“I think it shows how much my First Nations community is supporting me,” Atchison told the North Shore News the day before receiving the award.
“She deserves all the praise she gets,” said North Shore rugby coach Mimi Appelbe. “I coach her on many teams and she is the quintessential team player, one of those players I’ll be sad to see graduate but excited to see where life takes her.”
Growing up as a First Nations person immersed in the mainstream world, Atchison said she’s never been directly confronted by racism or discrimination, but she’s heard enough to know that negative stereotypes persist.
“Teenagers in school, they kind of stereotype First Nations people as lazy, they don’t try hard,” she said. “I have heard comments that maybe I’d rather not repeat. It’s kind of shocking. We’re not different from anyone else. The stereotypes – I know where they come from, but I don’t know why they still exist. … I would assume in today’s society people would realize that everyone is equal, but not everyone does.”
Atchison never worried about proving people wrong, she said, she just went about her business and let her powerful presence speak for itself.
“For me it was never like I needed to break that barrier, I just always worked hard and pushed myself,” she said. “It’s important for me now, because I guess I’ve become a role model for First Nations people, to just keep pushing myself further and further – as high as I can go. I can show other people that you can do anything, it doesn’t really matter where you come from.”
Earlier this month Atchison’s drive helped her push her way onto a travelling team for a rugby and humanitarian tour to Medellin, Colombia. Atchison joined fellow North Shore rugby standouts Henry Davitt, Hazel Bice, and Mostyn Findlay, as well as coach Appelbe, on a tour with Canadian travelling team the Dog River Howlers.
The players returned home Nov. 7 after a week spent playing matches against elite Colombian players and holding clinics for children at fields across Medellin, handing out equipment and school supplies to the young players as they went.
“They don’t have a lot – some of them don’t even have rugby boots or anything – but they’re still so passionate and all they want to do is play,” Atchison said about the children she encountered in Colombia. Communication was tough given the language barrier, but Atchison used her knowledge of French to fill in the gaps between English and Spanish.
“They’re so willing to learn,” she said. “It’s kind of hard to communicate every little thing to them but they were still picking it up and just trying everything that we were teaching them.”
Atchison said she’s received so much support from the Squamish Nation and North Shore coaches like Appelbe, Darcy Patterson, Karl Fix and Brad Baker that she’s happy to pass it on to the next generation. Beneath it all, Atchison said she hopes she can share a simple message.
“Don’t be afraid,” she said. “If you hear bad things, don’t let it stop you. Just keep going – whatever your goal is – whether it’s in sports or school or art or whatever you’re passionate about – just go for it. Keep going as high as you can go. There’s always people that are going to support you, so don’t be afraid.”
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