Photo Credit: Mike MacNeil, WVSS
There is a rhythm to school sports and secondary school sports are approaching their second of three crescendos in the year. One has its pinnacle in early December with the conclusion of sports like volleyball and football. Basketball among others play for championships in March and rugby and track-and-field are among those that climax in late May. In February, many schools turn to the basketball playoffs as we approach B.C.’s March Madness.
I don’t spend as much time in gyms as I did even a few years ago when I was often consumed by them — first as a coach and then as a school administrator — but the value I see in school sports hasn’t changed. There is a great deal that can be written about what is changing with school sports, and what needs to change, so they remain vibrant parts of our schools (clearly, more posts to come), but this post has a tighter focus. The photo above, taken at last Friday’s game between West Van Secondary and Sentinel, shows amazing school pride in action.
What do I love about school sports? They provide a lens through which to see the world. It is positive values that make sports meaningful. These values are still alive and well in two ways — the value of school sports, and the values that we hold in school sports. It is a wonderful ritual that links our school experiences to those of our parents and our kids.
From time to time, I am concerned about athletics and values. Mostly, I am worried school athletics in the larger community are not valued as they should be. We often hear about how we need to improve reading, writing and math skills — and the implication is, it’s okay if the arts or athletics fall off. I sometimes feel like I missed a memo somewhere — are school sports not important anymore?
For many adults, some of our greatest moments in high school came from outside the classroom, at a school drama performance, as part of a school trip and, for many, from school sports. We also know, absolutely, school sports make an important contribution to the culture, character and definition of our schools.
I have seen, and still see, school sports much like Bill Bradley described in his book Values of the Game. So many of the qualities of a full and meaningful life are honed on a soccer field, in a gymnasium, or in the pool. The passion that drives you to compete and better yourself. The discipline that forces you to maintain a schedule and balance your life. The selflessness that epitomizes being a great team player. The respect you develop for each other, teammates, opponents and the games you play. The perspective and resilience you find by realizing life goes on, even after a big loss, and winning and losing is not only about the score in the game. The courage you show to triumph over adversity, and the leadership which defines special athletes whose greatest accomplishments are not only about making themselves better, but raising the level of all those around them.
We are lucky to have the model we have for school athletics. A model built on volunteerism — teachers and other staff coming together with parents and others in the community, to foster not only the growth of school sports, but also the building of life values. There are few better feelings than when a former athlete sees you some 10 or 20 years after you worked with them, calls you coach and tells you that he or she is now also coaching. While we can lament there is not more money in athletics, or that we don’t have a paid coaching model like some private schools, or many places in the United States — we do have a model where communities come together and make school sports happen, and often “pay it forward” athletes later in life become coaches to offer others what they once had.
Thanks to everyone in our district — and in all districts — who support our students through athletics, helping our students to sharpen their values. School sports continue to be a wonderful ritual worth celebrating.