In April 2023, Ashlyen Singh won the BC School Sports Women in Sports & Leadership Award, recognizing their commitment to student-athletes and school sports.
As someone who benefited significantly from sports, it's been their endeavour to ensure that all children have access to high-quality sports. Considering sports played a pivotal role in building their confidence and leadership skills, instilling a greater sense of discipline, and enhancing problem-solving skills, they aspire to share it with other children, which is why as the girls' basketball program lead and head coach for the Grade IX basketball team at Rick Hansen Secondary, they are always encouraging girls to play sports as a means to come into their power.
"As a coach, my constant focus is motivating my team and fostering a challenging environment. We celebrate our triumphs together when the team willingly embraces risks and succeeds. However, in the face of failure, I ask them, 'How can I support you?' It helps cultivate resilience and hones their problem-solving abilities," Ashlyen shared.
This approach led their team to compete and finish fifth place provincially, their best so far. However, Ashlyen had to unlearn and let go of their past conditioning as they had predominantly experienced coaching that prioritized winning over athletes' well-being. Over time, Ashlyen shifted to a style where they weren't merely focusing on winning but helping children in the team become stable, mentally healthy athletes.
Besides teaching at school, Ashlyen also runs Abbotsford Basketball Association (ABA), a non-profit organization they co-founded with their partner, Dylan Kular, to make basketball and quality programming accessible to children at an affordable price. If the average cost of participating in a two-week program were $130, ABA would charge around $90 for a ten-week program.
Ashlyen's experience as a female basketball coach has proven rewarding and enlightening. Initially unaware of the bias against female coaches, they quickly started recognizing it. It became evident to Ashlyen early on that their coaching skills alone were not enough, as parents of the children they coached frequently failed to acknowledge their presence. "Parents would often think that there was no coach present if there wasn't a male in the gym," they revealed. Even the children would sometimes take a while to warm up to Ashlyen, possibly because they were unaccustomed to seeing women in leadership positions.
Recently, Ashlyen completed their Master's in Educational Leadership and Mentorship from the University of the Fraser Valley. They look forward to doing something big for girls' sports and leadership in Abbotsford. "One of my plans is to start basketball camps for elementary and middle school girls and have high school girls help run it, which will provide the latter with transferable leadership opportunities and allow the younger ones to see themselves in such roles in the future," they shared.
Ashlyen's message to everyone in the South Asian community is to put girls in sports and keep them playing for as long as possible.