Long-time University of Saskatchewan Huskies track coach Mavis Dzaka is taking her her leaderships skills to the next level.
Dzaka has been selected to take part in the Black Female Coaching Mentorship Program. The program features 17 mentees who will learn from top coaches from across Canada with the goal of creating Black female mentorship, coach professionalization and leadership development opportunities.
Having Black women as mentors offers a special learning opportunity, said Dzaka, who’s been an assistant coach with the Dogs since 2011 after her career as a Huskies track athlete.
“Maybe a different perspective on coaching and their experience,” Dzaka told Saskatoon Morning‘s Leisha Grebinski. “Insight into what they’ve experienced, how they’ve pushed through, you know, learning from the good and the bad.”
Although mentoring isn’t a new concept for Dzaka, she said “having something specifically for Black women is integral to our success as well as those who follow in our footsteps.”
As an athlete, Dzaka struggled with anxiety. She said she wants to make sure her athletes know they can turn to her for help on and off the track.
“I found it helpful to actually open up … even if it’s just online writing. It helped me get through it,” she said.
“We need to know that we’re not alone. That many people go through these sorts of things and that there are avenues to help you get through.”
Dzaka said she was able to overcome some of her anxiety by first acknowledging she had issues.
“Then it was seeking help, professional help through my doctor, who was excellent. And then she recommended a therapist and then also medication.”
Dzaka said she hopes the mentorship program makes her a stronger leader and a more well-rounded coach.
It will also help talking with someone who has had similar experiences.
“One of the things is just juggling work life and coaching track. (My mentor) is also a part-time coach like myself, so it’s juggling the demands of a nine-to- five job and then being a coach on the side,” Dzaka said.
“The main focus of any coach or athlete is to be the best that they can be, to hone their skills. And I also want to be a coach that helps them, helps athletes see where they can go in life as well. Not just on the track.”