Barbara Daniels: WoMentoring is a powerful privilege

Barbara Daniels mentors Canadian ice sledge hockey coach Tara Chisholm through the Agitos Foundation’s WoMentoring programme. 08 Mar 2015
Young girl in a sled on the ice, smiling to the camera

Kelsey Diclaudio

ⒸKelsey Diclaudio
By Barbara Daniels | For the IPC

If truth be told, I am a little in awe of Tara; what she does, her energy, her resilience, her confidence, her focus.

Sixteen mentors and mentees are currently participating in the Agitos Foundation’s WoMentoring programme, which aims to increase the number of women in key decision making roles within para-sport by sharing of expertise.

Barbara Daniels is mentor for the programme and has been a player, coach and National Governing Body Chief Executive and is now a coach educator in Great Britain. Daniels mentors Tara Chisholm, the coach of the Canadian women’s ice sledge hockey team.

For masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice.”

? Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own

Who would have thought that one of the elements of a mentor/mentee relationship would be a shared appreciation of Virginia Woolf! As a mentor, one of the things I struggle with sometimes is how to know if I am making a difference. This has been particularly true of my experience as part of the WoMentoring programme.

While I have a lot of experience of being a mentor and of working with coaches, I have no experience of the Paralympic world beyond that which I have seen on the television. So, it was with some trepidation that I made my way to Vienna, Austria for the beginning of this project.

I needn’t have worried though as we collectively shared many things in common and not only that of being women. It was personally energising to meet a diverse range of people who I wouldn’t have had the chance to meet in the normal course of events.

The coach I am supporting, Tara Chisholm, is the women’s Canadian National Sledge Hockey coach among many other things. She is a remarkable young woman, who has already achieved much and is passionate about not only sledge hockey but also many other adaptive sports and opportunities for people with varying disabilities in her locality. As a mentor there is little I can directly advise on in Tara’s world. My aim is to create a space where she is free and comfortable to voice her thinking and to provide a sounding board where she can try out different ideas.

If truth be told, I am a little in awe of Tara; what she does, her energy, her resilience, her confidence, her focus. I am also inspired by her to feel that there is much still to be done in coaching, in women’s sports and in Paralympic sports and that through schemes like this, collective energies can be harnessed to great effect. Sometimes in sport and as women in sport, life can feel a little isolating. The chance to connect across sport, disciplines, differing abilities and countries is a powerful privilege.