The third annual Fast and Female Northern Youth Empowerment Weekend descends on Fort Smith this weekend.
Female cross-country skiers aged nine to 19 will travel from throughout the Northwest Territories to Fort Smith to take part in three days of skiing and team-building activities by four-time Olympian Sharon Firth from Yellowknife and Fort Smith former National Team member Sarah Daitch.
This will mark Daitch’s third year of involvement in the event, which was founded to promote female empowerment through sports. Girls will get a chance to chat with both Daitch and Firth about their own experiences in competing in skiing events around the world.
Marie-Hélène Thibeault, executive director of Fast and Female, said she expects to have between 45 and 60 young women attend the weekend, keeping numbers on par from previous years.
Those not from the Fort Smith area will rendezvous in Yellowknife, where they will be flown on a chartered plane to Fort Smith for the festivities.
“What evolves from year to year is it’s located at a new venue each year,” Thibeault said. “The first one was in Yellowknife. Last year was in Norman Wells. And so we move from destination to destination so we can connect with the specific communities who are involved in skiing and who are involved in promoting sports for females.”
For Daitch, currently a graduate student at the University of Victoria in BC, it’s a great opportunity for her hometown to host the Fast and Female Northern Youth Empowerment Weekend.
“It’s particularly exciting for me because it’s in my hometown for the first time,” she said.
Daitch helped bring Fast and Female events to the North in 2010.
Prior to that, she was involved with organizing national day-long Fast and Female events, but they were largely held in larger, urban centres.
In speaking with Northern Journal, she stressed the importance of young women getting active and participating in sports.
“There is research that shows for girls between the age of 11 and 18, participation in organized physical activity at least three times a week yields a lot of unexpected benefits. Those include increased attendance and academic performance in school,” Daitch said. Those same research reports show decreased rates of suicide and alcohol and drug abuse.
Beyond that, there’s an experiential element that gives young women a confidence boost, allowing them to learn new skills while pushing their limits, she said.
Juneva Green, the event coordinator and Daitch’s former coach, and Betsy Mawdsley, a biathlete from Fort Smith who represented Canada at the 2011 World University Games in Turkey, will also be spending time with the girls.
“Then they’re going to do some dancing, some yoga. There’s a seminar on passion in sports and what’s the power of sport in your life,” Thibeault said. “That’s going to be a very popular session. They get to enjoy some great meals. The community is very generous in Fort Smith.”