Working with Athlete in Training program brings many valuable lessons to long-term Steadward Centre volunteer

After several thwarted attempts to volunteer, due to school commitments and the pandemic, master’s in engineering student Eric Beaudry cherishes the time he spends with program participants

30 October 2023

Eric Beaudry was a third-year engineering student in the fall of 2019 when he first heard of the Steadward Centre for Personal & Physical Achievement from a fellow student, who encouraged him to volunteer. Now, nearly four years later, he is a valued member of the team as an instructor in the Athlete in Training program. But it would take years for him to make that dream a reality, thanks to a confluence of many factors.

In 2019, Beaudry just missed the application deadline for the fall, so he hoped to find time during the following term. An engineering co-op placement made that impossible. So Beaudry set his sights on the fall of 2020, only to realize that months before, in March of that year, the COVID pandemic had shut down all in-person activities at the centre. 

Even once the centre did resume some in-person operations in August of 2020, volunteer opportunities remained limited until nearly a year later. By that time, Beaudry was about to graduate, and it looked as if volunteering at the Steadward Centre might never happen.

But this was a dream for Beaudry; one that he wasn’t yet willing to let go of. So instead of heading out to look for work in his field in engineering, he applied for a position as a first-time volunteer in the Athlete In Training program. This program is geared towards young people ages 12 and up who are experiencing disability and who want to work on physical conditioning for a variety of reasons, in group settings. Before long he was also volunteering with the Adult PALS program, which offers more individualized training and one-on-one sessions. 

“I had a blast” right from Day 1 of volunteering, recalls Beaudry. And that continues to this day. “I love the community and culture of inclusiveness that is pervasive in every program at rhe Steadward Centre,” he says. “The volunteers, athletes and program leaders I work with feel like family. The Steadward Centre is a space I look forward to going to every week to have fun, build relationships and grow alongside patrons. It’s a judgment-free zone that I’ve felt safe to thrive in, and I’ve also had the pleasure of watching others do the same.

These days, Beaudry is working toward a master’s in mechanical engineering, but he still makes time for the Steadward Centre. As an instructor in the Athlete in Training program, he gets to not only run the sessions but also now mentors other new instructors who are just starting out like he did two years ago. It is a place that has taught him so much.

I’ve learned more than I ever could have imagined,” he says, including improving his communication skills. “I’ve learned to tailor instruction and feedback to an individual’s best routes of communication. At times that means being less verbose and breaking tasks down into bite-size steps; in other cases, visual cues work really well; and sometimes detailed spoken descriptions are the best option you have to work with.”

Beaudry is grateful to his program leaders for all the mentorship they’ve provided in honing those communication skills. He’s also thankful for the opportunity to deepen his understanding about disability. “I would say the single most important thing I’ve learned is how unique, complex, tumultuous, and beautiful the lives of people living with a disability are,” he says. “Every week I learn something new, hear an outrageous story, laugh, have my heart strings tugged, and realize the ups and downs of life are not exclusive to my own.